Big Bullets FC, whose player Gabadinho Mhango is embroiled in controversy surrounding his age, has disclosed that the diminutive forward will turn 20 next month and is not 16 years old as his travel document indicates.
Bullets, through their general secretary Higger Mkandawire, came out of their shell to comment on the issue in an interview yesterday morning.
“According to the official records that we have obtained [from his family], Gabadinho was born at around 2pm on 27 September, 1993 at Luwuchi Hospital in Rumphi,” said Mkandawire.
The Bullets spokesperson said he did not have an idea as to why the player’s travel document indicates that he was born on the same date in 1996. Efforts to contact Gabadinho in South Africa proved futile on Thursday and yesterday.
And while the player’s passport indicates that he is 16, South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) club Bloemfontein Celtic’s technical director Mich D’ Avray said initially, when Gabadinho was asked about his age, he informed them that he was 20 years old, and yet the records at Malawi Schools Sports Association (Massa) puts his age at 22.
Celtic have since said the controversy surrounding Gabadinho’s age could prove to be a stumbling block in their quest to get him on board.
Speaking in a telephone interview from Bloemfontein on Thursday afternoon, D’ Avray said: “The issue is being looked into, it hasn’t been concluded yet.
“But it is a situation that could create a problem. If official records indicate that he is 16, then it is problematic.”
However, D’ Avray said the club will determine the way forward next week.
“The coaches are focusing on the weekend game [against Free State Stars]; so, if anything, a decision will be made probably early next week,” he said.
And while Celtic manager John Maduka, Big Bullets and South African media last week confirmed that Gabadinho signed a one-year contract on Tuesday with an option to extend by two years, the Celtic TD claimed that his contract had not yet been concluded.
“Not yet,” was D’ Avray’s response.
Gabadinho’s real age became a bone of contention on Tuesday when Football Association of Malawi (FAM) transfer matching system (TMS) manager Casper Jangale disclosed that, according to the records, an ITC [international transfer certificate] cannot be issued because records show that the player is 16 years old.
“An ITC cannot be processed because official records [even those at Fifa] show that Gaba was born on 27 September, 1996 and it means he is a minor,” said Jangale.
According to the South Africa Premier Soccer League (PSL) rules, a player cannot be registered with the league until he turns 18 which means Gabadinho will be eligible to play in September next year.
The country’s sole licensed players’ agent Felix Ngamanya Sapao said if there was an ‘error’ in Gabadinho’s age, it can be corrected.
“But the challenge is that according to Fifa rules, he would risk a minimum of a two-year ban.
“The starting point should be what is his real age? And if it is over 18 as has been reported in the media, then how come his passport shows that he is a minor? So, it is an issue that should be handled with a lot of caution.
“But the way it is, Gabadinho cannot play in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) this season because I was checking Fifa records and they clearly show his birth date as September 27, 1996,” said Sapao who manages a number of international players such as Zambia’s Stopila Sunzu.
Earlier in the week, Massa general secretary Blackson Malamula told our sister paper, The Nation, that in 2008, Gabadinho was barred from participating in the Under-14 Africa Invest Tournament that took place at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe because he was overage.
“He came to the finals with Embangweni Primary School, but he failed to pass the age test as he was 17 years old then,” said Malamula, an account that was corroborated by Northern Region Massa general secretary Joel Jennings Gondwe who led the delegation from Embangweni in 2008.
According to Weekend Nation findings, Gabadinho’s first trip abroad was to China with the national team in April last year and it was the time that his passport was processed.
Former Flames goalkeeper coach McHodges Chunga confirmed having helped to process the player’s passport.
“It is true that I handled the issue. In fact, when Gabadinho filled the forms, I became suspicious about the date of birth that he put because it showed that he was just over 15 and I even warned him that it could have consequences at a later stage if the information was not correct, but he insisted that it was his real age,” said Chunga from Zomba yesterday.