Filed in Sports by on May 3, 2010

South Africa petition football body over age dispute

By Semiu Osho with agency reports
May 3, 2010 01:13AM

South Africa have petitioned FIFA to challenge the age claims of four players in the Flamingoes’ squad after the Nigerian team threw them out of the U-17 women championship with a 2-1 second leg victory in Klerksdorp, South Africa, on Saturday.

The victory, facilitated by goals from Ugochi Oparanozie and Charity Adule, ensured that the Flamingoes qualified on 7-1 aggregate after a comprehensive 5-0 win in the first leg, decided at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta a fortnight ago.

The petition did not come as a surprise after the South African coach Solly Lovengo suggested his girls had lost through lack of fair play after claiming Nigeria fielded a “mature team” during his post-match interview after the first leg two weeks ago.

Oparanozie, who also scored four of Nigeria’s goals in the 5-0 first leg win, is likely to be among the four players in South Africa’s petition to FIFA after he was particularly mentioned by the South African coach.

“The Nigeria players are very mature, they don’t make any mistakes. They are mature, they are bigger and stronger. I don’t think anything serious went wrong with my team. Look at that number 9; she is not going to make mistakes and if you give her little chances, she is going to punish you”, Lovengo had said in Abeokuta.

He also stated: “We are always going to work hard, we are fair and we train normally and hope things are going to be fair everywhere. But it’s not like that and it’s difficult when things like this happen. Some of the things you can’t say them but we know what happens in football and some of these things are disgraceful. It’s bad for my players and I’m just saying that this is very, very bad for the spirit and the development of football, I hope we can do things fairly, not only Nigeria.”

No case

According to a report from the News Agency of Nigeria, the team manger of the South Africa U-17 women team, Fran Hilton-Smith, said they had filed a protest with the referee after Saturday’s game to question the age claims of four of the Nigerian players who she refused to name.

“We officially lodged a protest with the referee,” she said. “We submitted the names of the four girls that we believe are not U-17 and the rest is up to FIFA to rule on our protest.”

Hilton-Smith said the team had paid the stipulated protest fee and hoped FIFA would look seriously into the matter and pass the right judgment.

Nigeria’s sports minister, Ibrahim Bio, who watched the second leg in South Africa, insists the country has not fielded age cheats in the Flamingoes’ squad.

“These are allegations; and allegations, unless proved, cannot be said to be true,” he said. “You know some of our girls. These days, a girl of about 16 years can be very huge and tall depending on the kind of food she is eating and the environment. We have tried and put all mechanism in place to ensure all our players are age compliant in age group competitions and the issue of over aged players will never surface in Nigeria.”



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