The curious case of Luka Milanzi.
In 2009 Luka Milanzi then aged 15, led the line for a Malawi side making their debut at the under 17 world cup, unsurprisingly the young Malawi side didn't do very well. However a young Milanziscored the only goal for his nation against Spain and that, coupled with his impressive form for his club Escom United led to interest from a host of European clubs. Despite the tempting offers from abroad, Milanzi was taken on trial at African Champions TP Mazembe
On the surface, all seemed fine. A fee had been agreed between the two clubs and 2.8 million (roughly £5000) had been paid to his hometown club Eagle Strikers based in Mzuzu in development fees. However all was not as it seemed. Milanzi required a certificate which could only be issued after the FIFA transfer matching documents had been completed. This means that both teams have to fill out information on the player and both clubs details must match, this is basically done to protect minors just like Milanzi. However, TP Mazembe signed him without the required papers, despite pleading from the Malawian FA (FAM). The transfer itself not only broke FIFA laws, but also his contract which was for 3.5 years, half a year longer than the law for under 18 players. His agent, a Mr Mtinde appeared to have been silenced, with him issuing no information on the player. The FAM had realised that there were problems with Milanzi's documentation, as when he was called up for the national team, he had to leave the DR Congo through Zambia before entering Malawi.
The waters became murkier when FAM were visited by a young woman, who claimed to be Milanzi's wife. She claimed that Milanzi had deserted her and she requested help to find her husband. It appeared slightly odd that such a young man would be married and it was widely speculated that Milanzi was not in fact 17 but ten years older. Then, local newspaper BNL times ran the story that Mtinde, Milanzi's agent was a high profile member of the Zambian FA and had rushed the transfer through illegally. Fears then arose that Milanzi was being used as a local player in the Congo, after his club TP Mazembe denied he was their player so they could avoid FIfa sanctions. A representative of Mtinde then claimed that Milanzi was actually at an academy run by the former academy head coach of ASEC Mimosas in Malawi. To further compound claims about Milanzi's age, FAM admitted that age cheating does take place in Malawi and other African countries. The main goal of age cheating is to gain an advantage in youth tournaments and in a continent where documentation is lax this is surprisingly easy to do.
No-one has fully uncovered the web of lies that spans Malawi, Zambia and the DR Congo but it is of little doubt that this practice takes place across the continent and FIFA need to crackdown on it. Despite the allegations made, FIFA still list Milanzi as an 18 year old, however these cases are notoriously hard to prove, as seen with the allegations made against former Arsenal star, Kanu. Nothing was heard of Milanzi until Zambian outfit Zesco United announced that they had taken the '18' year old on loan for the whole of the season. Again it is of little doubt to me that Mtinde is taking a big slice of money home after the deal was completed. Regardless of this I wish Milanzi all the best at Zesco and that he proves to the world his undoubted ability. Finally I would again look to FIFA and CAF to tighten up on the rules, because until they do this, clubs like TP Mazembe can run amok and will continue to ruin the image of African football