FC Goa, Bengaluru FC launch initiative to tackle age fraud in Indian football

Indian Super League outfits FC Goa and Bengaluru FC are among clubs who have come together in a new initiative to alleviate the problem of age fraud in Indian Football.

Published : Jun 15, 2024 16:08 IST , CHENNAI - 3 MINS READ

Children playing in a Chennai-based U-13 football league.
Children playing in a Chennai-based U-13 football league. | Photo Credit: NIGAMANTH P

Children playing in a Chennai-based U-13 football league. | Photo Credit: NIGAMANTH P

Leading Indian Super League clubs FC Goa and Bengaluru FC have come together and announced an initiative to tackle the problem of age fraud in Indian Football. Dempo SC, Mizoram FA, FC Madras, and the Reliance Foundation Young Champs are other clubs and bodies who are co-signatories in a joint public letter.

Age fraud has been an issue in the country’s footballing eco-system for years. The case of Jamshedpur FC forward Gourav Mukhi, who was banned by the ISL during the 2018-19 season for posing as a 16-year-old, is one example.

Another more recent example is when a staggering 87 players failed to pass the age test at the U-14 Subroto Cup last year, which resulted in 15 teams being disqualified.

“We, the undersigned, have come together to address a critical issue that severely hampers the development of our game - Age Fraud. A problem often discussed behind closed doors, it is time we discuss this publicly and address it head-on. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Bringing transparency and openness to this issue is the first step toward finding a solution,” the letter, addressed to stakeholders of Indian football, started.

The letter continues to draw attention to the ineffectiveness of the current TW3 verification test, the limitations of which can often render “honest aged children” ineligible.

To counter the TW3 test’s issues, the six signatories have appealed to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to set up an amnesty scheme similar to what the Badminton Association of India (BFI) has put in place. This scheme instituted by the BAI is called Voluntary Age Rectification Scheme (VARS).

The one-time VARS allows players to voluntarily, and confidentially, announce their actual date of birth, rectify it with the BAI, and then compete in competitions suited for their actual age.

Moreover, they have also stressed on the need for strict actions against adults who have committed age fraud. “After the amnesty scheme window closes, there must be severe consequences, especially for adults responsible, who are found to still indulge in this fraudulent practice. Accountability is crucial to ensure that the system remains clean and fair for everyone involved,” the letter said.

The six signatories, apart from the aforementioned appeal, have listed a few ways in which they will do their part to alleviate the problem of age fraud. One of these measures includes the clubs/associations going the extra mile to investigate suspicious cases.

The signatories have announced that they would host tournaments limited to clubs and academies which are “honest actors”, starting with an U-15 competition.

Additionally, the signatories have pledged to be vocal about the issue through campaigning, and also include anti-Age Fraud messaging on their training kits from the 2025-26 season onwards.

“We urge all stakeholders to come together and commit to calling out this problem, for the benefit of our children and the future of football in India,” the letter concluded.

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