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AIFF efforts begin to show

Zero tolerance. That's the approach the All India Football Federation has been following for quite a while now, as far as overage players participating in age-group tournaments go, reports Abhishek Hore.

sports Updated: Jan 17, 2009 01:30 IST
Abhishek Hore

Zero tolerance. That's the approach the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been following for quite a while now, as far as overage players participating in age-group tournaments go, and it is making a lot of sense.

Sample this: While 30% of the teams were found to be overage in the under-13 soccer festival in 2007, the margin came down to 20 in 2008. In this edition of the tournament, currently underway in Jamshedpur, only eight players have been disqualified so far due to fudging their age.

"We have sent the right signals and that's why even the players these days are taking it seriously," said Shaji Prabhakaran, technical director, Vision India Programme.

"We had to set a precedent. And we did that by disqualifying teams with overage and underage players from participating in the previous editions of the tournament," Prabhakaran added.

"We knew there would be age-related problems even before the inaugural edition of this tournament in 2005, but the stringent measures ensured every player falls in the specified age limit."

Setting up a medical cell at the stadium, verification of body parts, besides the documents and accepting only registered birth certificates from hospitals are some of the steps that have helped in tackling this problem. "We also have a doctor conducting medical tests of the players," he said.

While a team consisting of more than three players failing age verification tests are disqualified, in case of two, Prabhakaran said, "We penalise the team by deducting points."

The good news is that the age verification tests are not just restricted to this tournament, as the players taking part in the under-14, under-16 and under-19 level tournaments are also not spared.