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Gambia banned for 2 years from African competitions for age cheating

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CAIRO - Gambia has been banned from all African football competitions for two years, the continental body said Saturday, after fielding five overage players in a qualifier for Africa's under-20 championship.

The Confederation of African Football said that its executive committee decided to suspend the Gambia Football Association at a meeting last week after the under-20 team was found to have falsified player documents.

The ban means Gambia's senior national team will be unable to take part in qualifying for the 2015 African Cup of Nations. It was due to play Seychelles this month in a first-round qualifier. The small West African nation has never qualified for the African Cup or the World Cup. Gambian clubs also won't be able to play in CAF's continental competitions for two years.

CAF found that all five players were born not later than 1994 and therefore ineligible to play in the under-20 qualifying game against Liberia on April 6. Gambia won the match 1-0 before the result was annulled and the tie awarded to Liberia. Only players born from 1995 onwards can play in the competition.

One of the players, forward Ali Sowe of Italian club Chievo, could be as old as 25, CAF said, after it discovered records from a 2012 club competition that showed his birthday on his passport as Oct. 14, 1988.

Although Gambia has never been to a major tournament, it has had some success in youth competition, winning the 2005 and 2009 African under-17 championships. African football has had regular problems with age cheating in youth tournaments. FIFA now uses MRI scans on players' wrists to catch age cheats at international youth tournaments.

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