Anyone who has read my blog in the past will know that I abhor age-cheating in football. The AFC, who initially used X-rays to determine the accurate age of players, and who now use the more reliable MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests, have sent a clear message to all Asian countries that age cheating will not be tolerated. They disqualified Korea, Tajikistan and Iraq from the 2008 AFC U-16 championships and then banned eight players during the 2010 event for trying to cheat the system. It looks like the bad old days of age cheating at international competitions has come to an end for the most part. In domestic football closer to home, it is still taking place as birth documentation is unreliable and often unavailable. It's difficult to know how to combat against this cheating at a local level.
Anyway, I was intrigued when Hok Sochetra, the Cambodian coach said that most of his players who got thumped by Timor Leste were under the age of 21 years old. Factually, that's a little skewed. The average age of the team that started the game against Timor was 22 years old. Five players were under 21. So then I looked into the ages of the whole Cambodian squad, which are provided by the official AFF Suzuki Cup website, with birthdates shown for all players. I cross-matched that against a document produced by the Cambodian League in 2009 (though I would add it's not stamped as official), which listed all players (and birthdates) for the ten Premier League teams at that time. The comparison left me somewhat dismayed in that nine players in the 20-man Cambodia squad appear to have managed to reverse the normal ageing process that occurs in humans. Their 2009 birthdates do not match their 2012 birthdates; their birthdates have been altered. Two of the players have actually managed to knock five years off their ages - I just wish I could do that. The nine players, whose birthdates have changed, are as follows: Sou Yaty (real age 23; current age 21), Um Vichet (19; 18), Khiev Vibol (22; 20), Touch Pancharong (25; 20), Chhun Sothearath (25; 22), Prak Mony Udom (20; 18), Tum Saray (22; 20), Phourng Soksana (22; 20) and Srey Udom (24; 19). The Suzuki Cup is not an age-level competition, so it doesn't matter in that respect. But surely, it's the principle that really matters. A lot of people couldn't give a toss about a player's age, it's what they do on the pitch that matters, and that's their view, but there are basic standards that need to be followed in any sport, especially football, and we appear to be making up our own.