The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) has issued a statement after the U17 national team was expelled from the COSAFA Men's Under-17 Championship due to alleged age-cheating.
Zimbabwe, along with Comoros Islands, eSwatini and Botswana, were expelled from the competition after a number of players from the nations' respective teams failed the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test, which is used to determine player age.
ZIFA have since confirmed that the team has returned to Zimbabwe at the behest of COSAFA, but added that an appeal had been lodged against the decision to disqualify the U17 national team from the competition.
Scroll through the gallery below for images of footballers who have been found guilty of age-cheating in the past
"[ZIFA] would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation that ZIFA has not received any response from CAF, following our appeal against the disqualification of our Under-17 team from this year's edition of the COSAFA Youth Championship," ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said, per Zimbabwe's Herald.
"COSAFA has insisted that in the absence of communication from CAF, the expulsion stands and the team should travel back to Zimbabwe. Consequently, the team will return home.
"This does not mean that ZIFA has abandoned its appeal against disqualification, but we have taken this decision to avoid further straining the committed and innocent Young Warriors whose premature exit was disappointing and questionable.
"The Association would like to express its gratitude to all Zimbabweans who have supported the indefatigable Young Warriors whose participation in the COSAFA tournament was promising. ZIFA would like to reiterate that the Executive Committee remains committed in developing the beautiful game in the country."
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