40 out of 60 Golden Eaglets have failed the mandatory MRI age test barely three weeks to the under-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Benin Republic.
Only 20 players passed the tests and out of these players, only five are in the main squad with only two in the starting line up.
This development has thrown the team’s coaching crew led by Fatai Amoo into deep crisis with just three weeks to select a brand new squad to fly the country’s flag at the WAFU B qualifiers scheduled to begin on January 5.
“From what I gathered, 40 of the 60 players who did the MRI test failed and they were mainly the players the coach was seriously banking on for the competition,” a top source told SCORENigeria.com
Some of the affected players include even those from the national U16 team, who featured at an invitational tournament in Japan last year.
They will now be forced to park out of the team’s hotel in Abuja and head home.
This is not the first time the Nigerian junior squad is going through crisis as age cheating is rampant in the Golden Eaglets.
Parents and agents are particularly guilty of falsifying their wards’ ages in their desperate attempts to get them into the national youth team.
Sources at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) disclosed that it was to avoid Nigeria being embarrassed at major tournaments that it made Grade 1- 4 as the benchmark for the age test to ensure registered players are not disqualified to lead to the disqualification of the entire team by CAF.
“With CAF’s new rule, once a player or two is disqualified in a team, the entire squad is knocked out of the competition. This I believe is what the NFF is trying to avoid from happening to Golden Eaglets,” observed the credible source.
It was also learnt that there have been strident calls for Grade 5 to be accepted as the benchmark as was the case previously.
Some of the country’s top stars like Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Iheanacho used the U17s as a springboard for lucrative transfers overseas.
Legends like Victor Ikpeba, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro and a host of others similarly used the cadet competition to rise to stardom.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has been tied with rivals Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in Group B in U17 qualifiers with two finalists advancing to U17 AFCON final tournament.