The global endemic of age fabrication was at the heart of Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the U-17 World Cup in India.

The 24-team line-up for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup has now been completed, and it comes as a huge surprise that defending champion Nigeria is not among those qualified teams.African qualification for the Under-17 World Cup is held in two parts: a qualifying stage for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations and the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations finals. Nigeria, the five-time Under-17 World Cup winner and current world Under-17 champion, will not be coming down to India later this year because of its failure to qualify for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations.

Nigeria’s qualification blues
The Golden Eaglets’ qualification failure was a result of many factors, not least an age fabrication scandal that hit the team hard. So hard that it had 26 members of its first team squad sent home before a crucial two-legged second round qualifier against Niger.Nigeria won the first leg 1–0 but was beaten 3–1 in the second leg in Niamey, thereby getting knocked out of contention for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations as well as the Under-17 World Cup.

African nations are major offenders
African nations have been infamous for fielding over-age players in age-group tournaments over the years. In 2013, Nigeria was forced to play with an understrength team in the Under-17 World Cup in UAE, yet it managed to win the tournament.

The Golden Eaglets’ Under-17 World Cup wins of 1985, 1993 and 2007 were also mired in age-fraud controversies before FIFA set up the MRI screening system in 2009.Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screening is done to conduct age testing, and almost the entire Nigeria side to play the qualifier against Niger was wiped out by the results of the MRI tests.26 out of 60 eligible players were found to be over-age, leading to their ineligibility for the Niger game.

A further damning fact is that only two of the Golden Eaglets’ first eleven got through the MRI screening, leaving the team heavily depleted.

Age fraud
A global endemic Age fraud is not just an Africa-only issue, it is rampant in other parts of the world as well. However, the number of cases that come to light from Africa means that the finger of accusation is always pointed in Africa’s direction.South American countries have also been found guilty of age fraud in the past, most notably Brazil’s 2003 World Youth Championship-winning team and Ecuador.

Those countries, where the poor outnumbers the rich, where structures and policies are lagging behind, are the ones where players’ cheating over their age is commonplace.Nigeria’s absence from this year’s Under-17 World Cup stemmed from an age fabrication issue that highlights the irregularities at age-group levels.

Furthermore, a look at the best Nigerian players from past Under-17 World Cup shows that none of them has gone on to have distinguished top-level careers.What started in 1989 when FIFA banned Nigeria’s youth teams from playing in FIFA-organised youth tournaments has still some way to go before being completely wiped out.

Nigeria fell foul of fielding over-age players, thereby losing out on making Under-17 World Cup history of winning the tournament three times on the spin.Later this year, India will not witness the best Under-17 national team there has ever been. Age cheating is a punishable offence, and Nigeria stands as a prime example of how fraud can pale even the brightest of glories. Ghana, Niger, Mali and Guinea will represent Africa in the Under-17 World Cup which starts on October 6th in India.

Source: sportskeeda