All India Football Federation (AIFF) Executive Committee member Anjali Shah has questioned the veracity of the TW3 (Tanner-Whitehouse) age verification method and its implementation in the U-13 and U-15 age-group football in India.
The decision was passed at an Executive Committee meeting on July 22, 2018, in Mumbai but the tests were only completed several months into the start of the football season. The results of the tests have caused concerns for a lot of clubs whose players have been deemed ineligible due to their bone age exceeding the specified limit - 16 for U-15 League and 14 for U-13 League.
"The decision to do the TW3 was taken while I was at the Executive Committee meeting. But at that point, I was not aware of how much research has gone into doing this test before they had decided to do it. And I am still not aware of the research gone into it. It was a decision passed in the larger interest of (curbing) age fraud," Anjali Shah told Goal .
"It is a good thing to be happening for the larger good but clearly, the timing of it was very wrong. What has happened is that 80 per cent of players in every team have been shown to be over-age in spite of them being in genuine age.
"This test has caused a lot of confusion. Whether this test is suitable for Indian children, it is a big doubt. If 80 per cent of children have failed the test, then there is something wrong, right?"
Neither FIFA nor AFC used the TW3 method for age verification. Anjali questioned the point of using different tests for Indian leagues and the Indian national team.
"I dont think TW3 is the way to go forward. The national team does MRI. There have been cases where the kids have failed the TW3 but have got a call for the national team. If you are trying to use the youth league to scout for the national team, how are you actually going to get the really talented kids because many of them might not get to play at all?"
Another issue to deal with is the psychological trouble the young players have to go through. Skeletal growth is not the same as mental growth and when kids are selected or deemed ineligible based on just the former, it is a cause for concern.
"That (mental state of the players) is a very very big concern of us. The kids are at the age where they are going in for their exams, they have been practicing for the 8-9 months. It is a very delicate issue and highly likely to cause an imbalance mentally. It could result in some really bad events if we are not careful in how we deal with it.
"All said and done, you might tell the kid 'it is not your fault', but in the end the kid knows he is being caught (disqualified) over age. So for no fault of his, he is going to feel guilty. "
As many as 16 clubs in Mumbai have united in an effort to let the apex body of Indian football know the issues of the implementation of TW3 method. They are set to take up the matter with the state association who will then be expected to represent the clubs and appeal to the AIFF.
"We are waiting to make a representation of all Mumbai clubs to AIFF through our association. We are waiting for our honorary secretary (Sowter Vaz) to come back, and on January 2nd or 3rd, we will meet with him and take it from there. We have to let the AIFF know that how it was done is not correct.
"I don't know if they have put in enough study into whether it is a suitable test for Indian children. I know this is a test conducted for African nations, I have heard this is more suitable for South-East Asian countries. Any kid who is big and tall have failed this test."