FAM has declared that players from the top-flight Super League will no longer be part of the Under-17 national soccer team even if they fall within the age bracket.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) technical director Jack Chamangwana and Under-17 national team coach John Kaputa on Wednesday said the move is aimed at curbing age cheating and exposing up-and-coming talent from the communities and schools.
The FAM TD said starting with the forthcoming 10th African Under-17 Championship, in which Malawi will face Botswanaâ€™s Young Zebras in September this year, Super League players will not be considered.
Said Chamangwana: “We have realised that players that play in the top-flight league are already established and therefore should be considered for the Under-20 national team alongside those that play in the FMB Youth League. It is also one way of curbing age-cheating.
“From now onwards, weâ€™ll restrict the Under-17 national team to young players from schools and communities with the aim of exposing their talent on the international stage. We noted that they were being denied that opportunity in the past because the emphasis was on already established players and that was not good for the development of the game.”
Chamangwana and Kaputa also said to that effect, the selection process has already started.
Kaputa said so far 14 players have been identified from the North and 19 from the Centre.
“The selection process will also be done in the Southern Region and from the group weâ€™ll identify the cream that will compete for places in the national team,” said Kaputa.
He also stated that they will be strict on age.
“Weâ€™ll be very strict on age to ensure that only those players that are eligible should be considered.
“For a start, players that will be chosen will be asked to produce birth certificates or letters from their respective schools, churches or parents and guardians as proof of their ages before they can be taken for MRI [magnetic reasoning scanning] in order to determine their real ages,” said Kaputa.
Local soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda hailed FAM for the move.
“I have always been an advocate against age-cheating even during the time I was at FAM because it affects the development of the game. So, the move by FAM is commendable and hopefully they will live to their word. Unfortunately there are some coaches who encourage that malpractice and the end result is that players run out of steam quickly,” noted Nyirenda.
He also said the move not to include Super League players in the Under-17 national side is also commendable as they are already established and should instead be considered for the Under-20.
In 2009 Fifa announced that in order to â€˜protect the integrityâ€™ of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) would be used randomly in order to identify players who maybe above the age of 17.
The issue of teams fielding over-age players was highlighted at the CAF Under-17 Championship Algeria 2009, when Niger were disqualified from the competition for fielding an ineligible player.
A statement released by the world football governing body reads: “MRI of the wrist can identify players who are definitely above 17 years. The method has been developed and tested by the Fifa Medical Assessment and Research Centre F-MARC in large scientific studies of different ethnic populations. It is reliable, evidence-based and safe for the player.”
The CAF youth tournaments have been dogged, for years, by allegations that overage players usually participate.
The tests, to try and determine the possible age of the player, are called Wrist MRI for Age Determination.
â€”The 2009 Africa Under-17 Championship in Algeria was rocked by an age-cheating scandal that led to the disqualification of Niger following a complaint filed by the Young Warriors of Zimbabwe.
â€”Malawi then earned automatic qualification to the finals of the World Championship at the expense of Niger.
â€”The Under-17 international youth tournaments helped expose local upcoming talent such as Robin Ngalande who now plies his trade in Spain, Limbikani Mzava who plays in South Africa and Luka Milanzi who is based in DR Congo