Nigeria's 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup-winning squad has been rocked ahead of an U17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier after almost half of their 60 tested players reportedly failed a mandatory MRI screening that establishes squad members' ages.
According to Samm Audu of Africanfootball.com (h/t Eurosport's Toby Keel), 26 players have been deemed ineligible to play as a result of the tests, and only two of the current starting XI remain available for Saturday's home clash with Niger.
An official outlined the gravity of the situation, per Audu: "It is a disaster. Virtually the [entire] first team the coaches have been working on have been disqualified. It’s a serious problem."
According to Keel, MRI tests have been used for some time to help prevent age fraud in youth tournaments, and they are "considered 99 per cent accurate up to the age of 17."
Some of the Nigerian players are said to have been "in tears and total shock" when the results were confirmed on Wednesday, and all those who failed the test have now departed the team’s training camp in Abuja, per Audu.
Nigeria's clash with Niger as part of qualifying for the 2017 U17 Africa Cup of Nations in Madagascar is set to take place at the National Stadium of Abuja.
Players born on January 1, 2000 or later will be eligible to participate in the competition.