A CONFEDERATION of African Football (Caf) official says being disqualified from the Cosafa Under-17 competition does not imply age-cheating, creating more confusion about Zimbabwe’s disqualification.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
Four countries, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Comoros Islands and Eswatini were disqualified from the tournament last Friday following the results of the MRI scans.
Zifa is challenging its censure from the competition and has demanded that the name of the player who failed the test be revealed.
Caf medical compliance officer, Thulani Ngwenya’s explanation of the processes give Zifa no basis to challenge the disqualification as the MRI processes determine eligibility and not necessarily age.
The statement by the Caf official also leaves more questions than answers because of the inconclusivity of the MRI scan results on age.
“MRI has always been there, before it was called MRI for age determination. It is no longer called that because remember we are from different backgrounds, with nutritional backgrounds; with different genes. We grow differently,” Ngwenya said.
He added: “What MRI does; it checks the growth plates. If the growth plate is completely fused then it says you are not eligible to play in this tournament. It does not say you are older than 17. That is a requirement; an eligibility requirement to play in this tournament but it has nothing to do with age,” Ngwenya said.
Ngwenya’s statement is consistent with other experts on the MRI scan with a Greek expert in the field saying it can not be used to determine age.
Efstathios Gotsis does research in Neuroradiology and Radiology and works at BIOIATRIKI as head of the department of magnetic resonance and MRI education (Biomedicine Group of Companies).
Responding online if MRI could be use to determine age, Gotsis said bone age and real age don’t always match.
“No it cannot (determine age) in general. For youngsters we can determine the age of the bones, for example in the wrist and see roughly what is going on. But age of the bones and real age do not always coincide. There are some children that their bone age is lagging behind their real age. Or that the epiphyses of their bones takes longer to close. So some youngsters are adults at 16, some at 17 some at 18 etc. By the way, we can use plain X-rays for the same job. MRI is not necessarily better for this job,” Gotsis said.
A number of pundits in the field including local doctors, agree with that accession.
Ignorance could have led to Hwange-based Klaivert Tshuma being embarrassingly chucked out of camp and accused of age-cheating by his coaches as alleged by his mother, which Zifa needs to apologise to the family if it’s true.
Zifa also claims that six players were disqualified after local MRI scans were done, but that has only come out after the disqualification in South Africa and the Tshuma uproar.
Zifa insists their appeal albeit the Warriors returning home after getting no response from responsible authorities and says: “The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation that ZIFA has not received any response from the Confederation of African Football (Caf), following our appeal against the disqualification of our Under 17 team from this year’s edition of the Cosafa Youth Championship. Cosafa has insisted that in the absence of communication from Caf, the expulsion stands and the team should travel back to Zimbabwe. On going tournament also serves as the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Consequently, the team will return home tomorrow (today). This does not mean that Zifa has abandoned its appeal against disqualification, but we have taken this decision to avoid further straining the committed and innocent.”
The Cosafa Under-17 tournament started yesterday.