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Sports News of Wednesday, 18 October 2017


U-17 World Cup: Mali players are over 17 years - Iraq coach

Qahtan Al-Rubaye's post-match comments over alleged age-fraud by Mali cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise impressive display from the African nation.

The AFC Cup champion was soundly beaten 5-1 in the Round-of-16 stage here at the Fatorda stadium on Tuesday.

Asked about his side's experience in what was only its second outing at the U-17 World Cup, the Iraqi coach expressed displeasure over the physical disadvantage his players had to contend with.

''We knew that Mali had very good players. But sometimes it’s unfair especially when it comes to the physicality of the players. There is a big difference between the African teams and others.

''They sometimes look like they are the U-23 team and not the U-17. It’s quite visible in the way they play, the way they shoot and their ability. You can't compare (them) with U-17,'' said Al-Rubaye.

Under the tournament guidelines, it states that any protest regarding the eligibility of the nominated players shall be submitted to the FIFA headquarters in India within five days of the third place play-off.

''We are not going to complain or anything. Football is about fairness and fair play. This is a good experience for our players. But you saw the abilities of their players and you are the judges,'' Al-Rubaye stated before exiting the podium.

The winning coach on the night, Jonas Komala, was unsurprisingly dismayed by the comments but maintained his calm throughout the interaction.

''So in football, it’s important to accept the result. When it comes to this competition, there are certain rules when it comes to age and they are all tested by FIFA. So when it comes to the result, you have to accept it in the spirit of football,'' said the 40-year-old coach.

Mali, which has scored 13 goals in the marquee event so far, will next face the winner of Ghana and Niger in the quarterfinals at Guwahati on Saturday.

Having locked horns with his fellow continent opponents on various occasions in the last two years, Komala said: ''In the tournament, we can't just choose. We will take as it comes. And we will prepare accordingly. We know both of them quite well. Ghana or Niger. We know each other and it's going to be exciting.''