Innocent Kurira, Sports Reporter
THE boys’ football squad for Team Zimbabwe’s African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in Harare yesterday in compliance with Caf regulations.
Caf requires that all players in youth tournaments submit to MRI scans of their wrists in an attempt to determine their age eligibility.
The protocol is designed to prevent older and stronger players from entering youth tournaments in settings where birth certificates or other ways of verifying their age may be absent or contested.
Football competitions at the Region 5 Games are run by Cosafa, which has put together a handy guide of regulations of the tournament.
According to Cosafa, all players in the boys’ and girls’ competitions must have been born between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2007.
Each squad will be limited to 20 players.
Zimbabwe was thrown out of the Cosafa Under-17 tournament in November last year after some squad players were deemed overage and therefore ineligible.
At the time, Zifa claimed that six players were disqualified after local MRI scans were conducted, but that was only revealed after the team’s disqualification in South Africa.
The incident sparked accusations of age cheating, although MRI scans only determine a person’s eligibility and not age.
However, Team Zimbabwe media liaison officer Ranson Madzamba said they had done everything in compliance with tournament regulations to avert a repeat of the November 2020 embarrassing scenario.
“We are already in camp and preparations are going on well. As we speak, the players are doing their MRI scans and l can assure you that all due process will be followed and the team will comprise qualified players for the competition. We believe the best players have been chosen and they will represent the country well in Maseru,” said Madzamba.
Age cheating has hampered sport development in Zimbabwe, with teams vying for glory at all costs compared to development.
Issues of age cheating have always been swept under the carpet in junior competitions and it is hoped MRI scans can be adopted in domestic youth tournaments to end the cancer.
The Zimbabwe boys’ football team will open the competition with a Group A clash against Eswatini on November 30 before facing hosts Lesotho and Madagascar.
Zifa had initially decided against sending teams to the Maseru Games, but relented after a huge public uproar.
LaLiga Santander will be affording one player each from the boys’ and girls’ competitions with a chance to sample the sights, sounds and football of Spain.
The chosen players will train with an academy and hopefully watch a LaLiga match live, Covid-19 protocols allowing.
Team Zimbabwe as a whole is sending 189 athletes and 37 officials to the Games.
It will contest in 11 sport codes; athletics, basketball, boxing, gymnastics, judo, netball, swimming, taekwondo, tennis, football and volleyball.
Madzamba said Team Zimbabwe was ready to excel.
“We have every team in camp and rearing to go. We are doing all that is necessary administratively to ensure that the team does well. The selection of Team Zimbabwe was done looking for the best, able and competitive athletes to raise our flag high,” he said. — @innoecntskizoe