Wilfried Nathan Doualla: Cameroon midfielder cleared of age cheating as controversy remains

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Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot) has cleared Nathan Doualla to play in the country’s Elite League play-offs, without revealing how the international midfielder proved his identity following allegations of age cheating.

The 17-year-old, who was part of the Indomitable Lions squad at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, was among 62 players suspended by Fecafoot for double identification.

It came amid accusations he had previously played in the Cameroonian league using the name Alexandre Bardelli, with his registration stating he was over the age of 21.

An investigation by French newspaper Le Monde unearthed the discrepancy before the Nations Cup.

While Doualla was still selected for the tournament in Ivory Coast, he was then suspended by Fecafoot until he could prove his identity.

But before the top-flight play-offs, which begin on Friday, the federation released a list of 14 players, from the suspended 62, eligible to take part, including Doualla and Victoria United team-mate Nji Richmond, without giving details of how they proved their identities.

However, former international Bernard Tchoutang, a Nations Cup winner with Cameroon in 2000, used social media to announce that “Victoria United provided proof to Fecafoot showing that Bardelli is the deceased brother of Doualla, and the public should back off and allow Doualla to focus on the play-offs”.

Victoria United also defended its players, using its now deactivated Facebook account to say “Fecafoot confirms two of our players Wilfried Nathan Doualla and Nji Richmond don’t have double identity. Both players are eligible to play the play-offs”.

Both Doualla and Richmond have been linked with moves to Turkish club Antalyaspor but the Super Lig side has refused to be drawn into the controversy.

‘Tarnished image’

Doualla’s surprise inclusion in Cameroon’s Nations Cup squad led to much speculation about the player’s age, especially when squad pictures were first published.

Tournament regulations state that if a fraud or a forgery has been committed, the national association concerned will be suspended from the next two editions of the continental showpiece.

The suspension is reduced to one edition for any administrative error in player registration.

BBC Sport Africa has contacted Fecafoot to explain the irregularity and how it arrived at a decision on the matter but is yet to receive a reply to any of its requests for information.

This is the latest scandal to hit Cameroon after 21 members of the Under-17 squad failed age tests in January last year.

Those tests were ordered by former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o, now the Fecafoot president

Fourteen players were blocked from taking part in the Under-17 Nations Cup in Gabon in 2017 after they failed age tests, while 44 players faced hearings over identity fraud in 2022.

“It is sad to note that Fecafoot kept some grey spots in the whole story as they couldn’t tell us what justification documents were presented for a player with the same picture but two different player identities on Fifa’s Transfer Matching System (TMS),” said Philemon Mbale, a Cameroonian journalist who works for SportsNewsAfrica.

“The saga only goes to further dampen an already tarnished image of our football.

“We just move from bad to worse in the eyes of the international community. From poor results, to match fixing accusations, through the fact that the Indomitable Lions are without a new coaching staff after Rigobert Song.”

Cameroon’s men’s national team do not have any fixtures scheduled during the current international window and are yet to make an announcement on a new head coach after former Liverpool and West Ham defender Song was sacked last month.

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