Malawi Under-17 National Football Team has been dealt a big blow after six out of its 29 players earmarked for this year’s Region 5 Youth Games failed a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) assessment.
The Games are scheduled to start on November 30 and end on December 8 in Maseru, Lesotho.
The players underwent the assessment at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe to confirm their eligibility for the regional tournament.
The development has forced coach DeKlerk Msakakuona to delay announcing his final squad for the competition ahead of departure Saturday.
Fam Sub Technical Committee Chairperson Tiya Somba-Banda said the six had been sent back home as they are ineligible for the tournament.
“But there is no need to panic. The coach will select the best players and we will have a good team,” Somba-Banda said.
Ministry of Youth and Sports Deputy Director Justice Msopera, who is Team Malawi’s general manager, said they were following proper procedures before releasing the final squad.
“There are some procedures that have not been completed yet, so we are waiting,” Msopera said.
Msakakuona has only retained goalkeeper Alex Dzimbiri and striker Ronald Mapulanga from the squad that participated in the 2020 edition in South Africa.
The rest of the players were identified from a nationwide talent identification exercise.
Malawi are in Group B of the tournament alongside Botswana, Seychelles and Angola.
Meanwhile, Cosafa announced Thursday that all players will undergo a further MRI assessment before the tournament starts.
South Africa Football Association Chief Medical Officer Thulani Ngwenya, who has been involved in all Cosafa competitions, said the tests are important.
“MRI is a Fifa-approved method used to determine eligibility to play in the Under-17 age group. The images are taken on the non-dominant wrist, which is usually the left hand. The image takes about nine ‘slices’ of the growth plate.
“There are different stages of grading the growth plate, from one to six. Grade six is the last stage where the growth plate is completely fused. For the purpose of Under-17 tournaments, everyone who is grade six is therefore deemed ineligible to participate in this age group category,” Ngwenya said.
Last year, Botswana, Comoros, eSwatini and Zimbabwe were excluded from the tournament after some of their players failed the test.
The junior Flames finished bottom of the four-team table after failing to win any match.