This Day (Lagos)

20 July 2012

Nigeria: Fifteen Golden Eaglets Fail Fifa MRI Age Test

Nigerian football is confronted by a major embarrassment after 15 members of the Golden Eaglets failed the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan conducted to verify their true ages.

They were detected during the Grade 1 test ordered by FIFA for all countries intending to participate at any international age-grade tournament.

THISDAY had reported early this month that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had last month sent all the 40 of the players in the national U-17 camp for the test in order to detect age cheats among them.

But the high rate of those above the age limit is particularly not good for the palate of U-17 coach Manu Garba, considering that the ratio of failure is about one in every three players in the camp.

The immediate response of NFF to this development last night was to recruit and elevate 18 players from the national Under-15 groomed by Nasr Nasidi, as cover up.

The 'elevated' players will now replace the 25 players earlier scouted by Garba at the second phase of the Golden Eaglets camping exercise in Calabar this weekend.

The raging development will constitute an unsavoury distraction for Nigeria in its build up ahead of the Africa U-17 qualifying matches against Niger Republic.

The Eagles are billed to travel to Niamey on September 8 for the first leg of the two knock out matches.

Garba was palpably subdued by nerves on Monday, when he spoke of his fears about the new FIFA MRI policy, as well as the unpredictability of the scan, while the outcome of the test was being awaited.

He said the Grade 1 test which was a new barrier by FIFA was more thorough than Grade 5 which was the requirement Nigerian prospective U-17 players were previously subjected to.

"If you factor the record and facial looks of the players, you might think that three quarter of the players will pass the test, but the MRI test is going to be a rigorous examination now as FIFA is insisting on a Grade 1 test instead of Grade 5 and it is difficult to know who will scale through that. There is no guarantee that even a player within stipulated age range will scale through," Garba said on Monday.

It would be recalled that Sports Minister Bolaji Abdulahi, had come up with a new policy directive that henceforth, only players of school age would be allowed at the Eaglets' camp as part of the measures to stem the perennial cases of age falsification rocking the team.

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