By Ajitpal Singh
THE MALAYSIAN football team flew back to Kuala Lumpur yesterday from the Asian Under-22 Qualifiers in Yangon amid an air of suspicion regarding the age of some Myanmar players.
It is believed the hosts had fielded overage players, which has been a common practice in previous tournaments, to finish second in Group G and qualify for next year's tournament proper.
Based on Myanmar's team list, at least eight players are believed to be overage including Yangon United striker Kaung Si Thu, who scored a brace in the 2-1 win over Malaysia on Tuesday. Their ages were stated in their clubs' websites.
According to the Yangon United's official website (www.ygnutd.com), Kaung turned 25 on Jan 22 while other local portals revealed that seven others were aged 23.
Coach Ong Kim Swee, upon arrival in KL, said that he would lodge a complaint, accompanied with the evidence, to the FA of Malaysia (FAM) for further action.
He said those registered for the qualifier, as stipulated in the tournament's regulations, must be 21 and below.
An official of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said that it has not received any official protest from Malaysia regarding the allegation.
AFC regularly does comprehensive screening of competing teams, especially for age-group tournaments.
FAM will only make an official statement today after consulting Kim Swee.
"We cannot give a statement as the team only arrived today (yesterday). We will seek clarification from Kim Swee before making a stand," said FAM secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad.
It is learnt that FAM will investigate the matter thoroughly before the next course of action as it does not want to create any unnecessary controversy.
According to a report in the Myanmar Times (www.mmtimes.com), headlined "Age manipulation harmful, say coaches', in February, it alleged that its national football federation has an unofficial policy of age manipulation.
It also claimed that the team bound for next year's Sea Games Under-23 competition have five overage players.