WISSAM DEHBI / AIPS* in ABU DHABI: The coach of the hosts at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 has made the astonishing claim that almost three-quarters of the players at the tournament are over-age.
Rached Albedwawi spoke out at a post-match press conference on Sunday night after his Emirati team had been thrashed 6-1 by Brazil.
After only two games in Group A, the UAE cannot qualify for the knockout stage even though they have one game remaining. They lost their opening match 2-1 to Honduras. By contrast, Brazil are sure of progressing.
Albedwawi said: “I am sure that 70 percent of the players participating in this World Cup haven’t the appropriate age. They are over-age and it appears from their size and the way they play.”
He added: “I’m not accusing specific players but l can say that there are some players who haven’t the right to play here.”
Albedwawi also gave notice of further embarrassment ahead when he said: “I want to inform you that we will – the team staff and the UAE federation – send a complaint to the FIFA about this point. And we will request them to check again the players’ ages.”
He concluded: “We are able to finance this initiative and also we will send the names of the players in who we doubt.”
The perennial issue of players’ ages erupted in August when Nigeria dropped 11 of a pre-selected squad of 30 players after qualifying for the UAE by winning the African Under-17 title. They had all failed magnetic resonance imaging scans.
MRI checks are carried out on a random selection of age group championship players by FIFA because the system is considered to have a 99 percent success rate in assessing a young person’s precise age through the growth evident within the wrist bones.
Brazil coach Alexandre Gallo rejected the allegations on behalf of Brazil.
Gallo said the CBF was careful to check out the documentation of each of its players. He added: “Most players in Brazil start at a very young age and most of them have contracts with leading clubs. Their age has been verified and monitored throughout their careers.”
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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