#AFCON2021 Fact-check: CAF and the Gabonese player “whose mother died before he was born”

Ahead of Ghana Black Star’s group stage match with Gabon on Friday in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun, some social media handles have suggested that a Gabonese player has a falsified age.

The player in question is Guélor Kanga. He is an attacking midfielder for the Gabonese national team and plays for Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. Kanga is 31 years old, but the social media posts claim his mother died 36 years ago. That, according to the social media claims, is the reason the player met the Federation of African Football’s (CAF) Disciplinary Committee.

Fact-Check Ghana has verified the claims and provides the key facts on the issue below.

DR Congo football federation says Guélor Kanga is Kiaku Kiaku Kiangani

On April 14 2021, DR Congo (DRC) Football Federation (FECAFO) petitioned CAF’s disciplinary committee over what it considered an identity fraud on Guélor Kanga. The FECAFO said the player is actually a Congolese by name Kiaku Kiaku Kiangani. It stated that the player was born on October 8, 1985, in Kinshasa instead of the September 1, 1990 with which he officially registered as an international player with the Gabonese Football Federation (FEGAFOOT).

“Fraud has been orchestrated on the identity of player GUELOR KANGA registered by the Gabonese Football Federation (hereinafter the FEGAFOOT) as a citizen from Gabon,” a statement by CAF quoted FECAFO’s complaint to the continental football regulatory body.

FECAFO, therefore, called on CAF to consider the player’s registration as fraudulent and ineligible.

The FECAFO’s petition to CAF followed the DRC’s failed AFCON qualification campaign. The DRC finished third on the Group D qualification table behind Gabon and The Gambia who finished second and first respectively. The petition against Guélor Kanga, who featured in all the six qualification games, if successful, would ensure Gabon’s disqualification, making DRC replace them for the AFCON.

Did CAF invite Guélor Kanga over why his mother died before he was born?

 While many media houses in Africa have reported that CAF’s Disciplinary committee invited Guélor Kanga to answer why he was born in 1990 when his mother died in 1986, there’s no evidence of that investigation in CAF’s statement released on the issue.

The crux of the complaint by the DRC football federation against the player was about identity fraud in which they claimed the player was born in 1985 in Congo and not necessarily about when his mother passed.

Indeed, in adjudicating the matter, the evidence that Guélor Kanga was made to submit to CAF’s disciplinary committee did not contain information about his mother or when she passed.

CAF’s ruling

 On May 26, 2021, CAF’s Disciplinary Committee ruled on the complaint brought against Guélor Kanga by the FECAFO. CAF had invited all the parties, including the player and the Gabonese Football Federation (FEGAFOOT), for hearing and to also submit their evidence.

According to CAF, Guélor Kanga submitted many documents in his defence including “deed of succession of the family building located at 162 Avenue Bosenge, certificate of composition of family, passport application form of Mr Nsiala Nkanga William, father of the player in question, and grandparent identification sheet.”

After examining all the evidence available to them, the Disciplinary Committee of CAF rejected DRC football federation’s complaint.

“Disciplinary Jury considers that the claims of FECOFA and the evidence presented by the latter were not considered conclusive and sufficient to establish the materiality of a falsification of the player’s identity by FEGAFOOT. In addition, the Disciplinary jury could not find any irregularities concerning the eligibility of the player in question, nor of His registration with the CAF,” CAF’s ruling stated.

FIFA’s rule on age and eligibility

According to FIFA’s eligibility rules, there’s no age limit for a player to represent their country at the senior national level. Thus, the age of Guélor Kanga is immaterial to his eligibility to play for Gabon’s senior national team.

Also, in 2004, an emergency FIFA committee ruled that to be eligible to play for a country they are not born in, players must be able to demonstrate a “clear connection” to that country. The way to demonstrate a connection to a country, the ruling stated, is for the player to have at least one parent or grandparent who was born in that country, or the player must have been resident in that country for at least two years.

From CAF’s Disciplinary Committee’s ruling, Guélor Kanga satisfies all these conditions and the Committee “could not find any irregularities concerning the eligibility of the player”.

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