Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Cameroonian club Victoria United has defended Wilfried Nathan Doualla after the midfielder was accused of age cheating.

The 17-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the Indomitable Lions squad for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

Doualla is among 62 players who have been suspended from the domestic league by Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot) for double identification or age fraud.

Doualla did not feature at this year’s Nations Cup finals, where Cameroon were knocked out in the last 16 by eventual runners-up Nigeria.

Yet, after being called up by then coach Rigobert Song, there was much comment on social media about whether Doualla was really a teenager when pictures of the player first surfaced.

His inclusion in the squad in Ivory Coast could lead to the five-time African champions being banned from future tournaments if his registration is proved to have been falsified.

Nations Cup regulations state that if a fraud or a forgery has been committed, the national association concerned will be suspended from participation in the following two editions of the continental showpiece.

For any administrative error in the registration of players, the national association concerned will be suspended from the next edition, the rules add.

BBC Sport Africa has contacted the Confederation of African Football (Caf) for comment, while Fecafoot has not responded to an email sent to its communication department.

Club accuse Fecafoot of Doualla ‘error’
Doualla and 61 other players – including six of his Victoria United team-mates – were disqualified from appearing in the Elite League’s play-offs by Fecafoot until they can prove their identities.

The move to clamp down on age cheating, or identity fraud, comes as the authority aims to eradicate the administrative issues blighting the domestic game in the country.

Doualla is alleged to have previously played in the Cameroonian league using the name Alexandre Bardelli, with his registration stating he was over the age of 21.

An investigation by French newspaper Le Monde, external unearthed the discrepancy ahead of the 2023 Nations Cup.

Le Monde said it had asked Fecafoot to explain the irregularity before the squad set off for Ivory Coast, but that the body had declined to comment.

A defiant Victoria Utd insisted that Doualla and team-mate Nji Richmond “do not have double identities as speculated by Fecafoot”.

“We believe that this might be an error from the Fecafoot,” a club statement added.

“We call on our supporters to remain calm as we have submitted the necessary documents to justify that the players do not have a double identity.”

Cameroon ‘gaining reputation as age cheats’
This is the latest age-fraud scandal to hit the Central African nation after 21 members of their under-17s squad failed age tests in January last year.

Those tests were ordered by Fecafoot president Samuel Eto’o.

Meanwhile, 14 players were blocked from taking part in the Under-17 Nations Cup in Gabon in 2017 after they failed age tests and 44 players faced hearings over identity fraud in 2022.

One journalist says the country is “shooting [itself] in the foot” and risks a sanction by Caf for “acting as accomplices” over age fraud.

“There is no way the Fecafoot president did not notice irregularities before listing the player [Doualla] in the Nations Cup squad,” Giovanni Wanneh, who works for Cameroon’s online publication Sportglitz, told BBC Sport Africa.

“[There is] absolutely no way out of this for the lad [Doualla].

“For Cameroon, there sure will be huge repercussions. Cameroon had lots of players disqualified by the MRI scan before the U17 Nations Cup last year.

“We are gaining a reputation as age cheats, which is never a good thing.

“Our biggest selling point in football is Europe. Clubs in Europe and other continents will be too careful on players acquired from Cameroon.”

By Joy

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