x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

MRI age tests will benefit UAE U17s

Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association, says Fifa's decision to perform bone tests on players at the Under 17 World Cup in Nigeria is good news for the UAE team.

DUBAI // Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association, says Fifa's decision to perform bone tests on players at the Under 17 World Cup in Nigeria is good news for the UAE team. Fifa have decided to conduct random magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests in Nigeria to weed out over-age players "in the spirit of fair play" and "to protect the integrity of the tournament".

Al Rumaithi welcomed the decision, saying: "I don't want to take names, but there have been certain teams who have fielded over-age players in the past. We have suffered as a consequence of that, so I believe this decision will be an advantage for us. "At this level, even one year can make a big difference in terms of strength and quality of the players. So we are very happy about this. We have known about this for two months now and are fully supportive of Fifa's effort to have a clean tournament."

Fifa's decision follows reports that the host nation could select a number of over-age players for the finals, which are being played from October 24 to November 15. Nigeria, the defending champions, have been accused of fielding over-age players in the past as well. Last month, as many as 15 members of the Nigerian U17 team were found to be over age after MRI tests and they have been kicked out of the squad for the tournament.

The UAE are one of 24 teams participating at the U17 World Cup and Fifa are encouraging all the countries to conduct their own tests to ensure all the players comply with the age rule. Players born on or after January 1, 1992, are eligible to take part in Nigeria and al Rumaithi is confident all the UAE players meet that criteria. "We know all our players are 1992 born and we have no fears," he said. "There is no need for us to test our players. We will let Fifa do that at the World Cup. Some random tests were conducted at the Asian Under 16 Championship in Uzbekistan last year and all our players were clean. So we have no worries. Like I said, this decision by Fifa can only be good for us."

arizvi@thenational.ae