Nigeria’s under-17 squad wiped out as half are older than 17

A staggering 26 members of Nigeria’s Under-17 side failed an age test carried out ahead of an African Cup of Nations qualifier.

A mandatory Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screening of the squad revealed almost half were ineligible to play.

Only last year the Golden Eaglets, as they are known, won the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile for a record fifth time.

The players who failed the tests have now left the training camp in Abuja.

They were staying there ahead of tomorrow’s Cup of Nations U17 qualifying match against neighbouring Niger, which will still go ahead.

Many of the expected starting eleven passed the test.

Accusations of age cheating have blighted Nigeria’s success at international age group tournaments in recent years.

Former Nigerian FA president Anthony Kojo Williams told the BBC: “We use over-age players for junior championships, I know that.

“Why not say it? It’s the truth. We always cheat. It’s a fact.

“When you cheat, you deprive the young stars that are supposed to play in these competitions their rights.”

In 2013 Nigeria were left without key players for their Fifa Under-17 World Cup in after failing the same tests.

Controversially, USA-based Abuchi Obinwa was one of those to fail the test despite having all the relevant documentation to prove his age.

Football’s world governing body Fifa introduced MRI scans to check the ages of players at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, which took place in Nigeria.

MRI is used to scan the wrist plate of players to accurately check their true age, with only players between grade one and five of the scan eligible to participate.

Players with more advanced bone structure are considered to be adults.

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