FFA leads charge against age cheats

With fears Syria may have falsified age documents for their players in the current Under-19 Asian Championships, FFA is leading the charge against a practice John Boultbee has described as endemic.

Football Federation Australia is prepared to lead the charge against age-cheating in junior football after discovering six players in the Syrian under-19 squad which has reached the last eight of the Asian Championships were allegedly born on the same day. Australia last week joined Saudi Arabia in protesting to the Asian Football Confederation about the legitimacy of the Syrian team which drew with the Young Socceroos in the group stage. More significantly, however, FFA's international department head John Boultbee believes it is not an isolated incident, claiming the practice of falsifying documents is 'endemic'.

While praising the efforts of the AFC and FIFA in attempting to address the issue, Boultbee maintains the FFA will continue to apply as much pressure as possible in order to send the appropriate message.

''Age cheating is a serious problem all over the world in under age competitions,'' Boutlbee says.

''There is real difficulty in proving cheating if the passports and birth certificates have birthdates which show that the player is of an eligible age.

''The AFC and FIFA are doing their best to deal with cheating. For example they have brought in MRI testing at the under-16 and under-17 level at which age you can tell the player-s age with some accuracy.

''But the MRI testing does not work for a player who is 18 or 19. So you have to look for other evidence to expose age cheats.''

At the Asian under-19 Championships being played in the UAE, Syria have raised suspicions by listing their entire squad as born in January, with six players allegedly born on the same day, January 1. ' 'They are also physically very mature so we have supported Saudi Arabia with this protest and have, within the rules, asked the AFC to investigate the matter thoroughly,'' Boultbee says.

''The problem for the AFC will still be one of proving the ages of the players, despite the highly suspicious birth certificates and passport birth dates.

''Our team responded in the best way possible in not letting Syria get the better of us. Having topped the group, and qualified for the quarter finals, it is obviously not as important for us in terms of the competition as it might have been.

''However, we feel strongly that the matter of age cheating is endemic, and we will continue to push the AFC to do all they can to come to a decision in relation to Syria, and to continue to send the message that age cheats will not be given an easy road.''