JOHANNESBURG — Makoanyane XI coach Leslie Notši was last week forced to defend allegations that Lesotho had used over-aged players at the Caf African Youth Championship in South Africa.
Even after their 2-0 defeat last Sunday team Notši found himself answering questions about allegations that a number of his players should have been nowhere near the playing field in Dobsonville because they were over–aged.
“Yes, there have been these allegations. Yes of course it has affected the players’ morale,” Notši said at the post-match press conference at Dobsonville Stadium.
“It’s a matter that is beyond our control as the technical team. Of course every house has its problems,” Notši said.
The allegations started even before Makoanyane XI took on Egypt last Sunday.
Caf general secretary Hicham El Amrani was even asked a pointed question about allegations that Lesotho was cheating.
The interviewer had said there were allegations that Lesotho was fielding players in their mid-twenties.
“We will kick out the age cheats. We have no choice and it is our obligation to halt this habit. This is not new and we cannot let this damage the image of Africa every time there’s a tournament,” El Amrani said.
What seems to have triggered this question was Senkatana MP Lehlohonolo Tšehlana’s statement in the South African media that he had quizzed sports minister ‘Mathabiso Lepono in parliament on the issue.
“They are trying to ignore this matter. We wanted answers and the minister said she would respond in the next parliamentary session which begins on April 29,” Tšehlana told South African media.
“About five players have new, fraudulent passports. We have even asked the Intelligence Police to investigate,” Tšehlana added, also branding the allegations “a problem for the future of Lesotho football”.
El Amrani said systems would be put in place to catch age cheaters. He added that he was aware of the allegations against Makoanyane XI but didn’t have proof.
“I do not have evidence. So I cannot jump into conclusions,” the Caf general secretary is quoted as saying.
MRI scans which are used to determine age for under-17 tournaments are not as accurate for older players and can’t be used for under-20 players.
“By 20 (years of age), the scans are not 100 percent. In this instance, the organising committee will table different procedures with the medical officers. They will in turn communicate with Caf,” El Amrani added.
“There are other procedures to catch out the cheaters. We have a database that helps us monitor players. We can track players back to when they started playing in our junior tournaments.”
El Amrani said the punishment if a side is found guilty of age cheating would range from fines to disqualification, depending on the gravity and specifics of each case.