The boys taking part in the football competition at the Region 5 Games Maseru 2020 will undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) assessments to confirm their eligibility to compete in the tournament in Lesotho.
The tests are used to ensure the players are within the required birth date range for the competition, which is January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2007, and follows the disqualification of four sides from the COSAFA Qualifiers for TOTAL U-17 AFCON, Morocco 2021 last year.
Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini and Zimbabwe were all excluded from the competition in 2020 after one or more players failed a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) assessment.
Dr Thulani Ngwenya, who is Chief Medical Officer for the South African Football Association and has been involved in all COSAFA competitions since last year, explains the importance of the MRI tests for boys.
“MRI is a FIFA-approved method used to determine eligibility to play in the Under-17 age group,” Dr Ngwenya explained. “The images are taken on the non-dominant wrist, which is usually the left hand. The image takes about nine ‘slices’ of the growth plate.
“There are different stages of grading the growth plate, from 1 to 6. Grade 6 is the last stage where the growth plate is completely fused.
“For the purpose of Under-17 tournaments, everyone who is a Grade 6 is therefore deemed ineligible to participate in this age group category. The Confederation of African Football introduced this method to make our sport to be a fair and a level playing field.”
Dr Ngwenya is quick to point out that a Grade 6 result does not necessarily mean a player is ‘over-age’.
“This is an eligibility assessment, not an age determination assessment,” he says.
There have also been questions as to why the MRI tests are conducted on boys only, and not those competitors in the girls’ competitions.
“Girls have a natural situation of a menstrual cycle that really affects the development of their bones and directly affects their bone density,” he explains.
The Boys’ competition at the Region 5 Games Maseru 2020 kicks-off on November 30, with the final to be played on December 8. The Girls’ tournament starts on December 1, with the decider on the same day as the boys.