Seventy per cent of boys called for an under-14 camp held by the All India Football Federation at Kalyani in West Bengal were found to be overage with some of them as old as 17 years.
"This has been prevalent for long. The state associations need to be more serious," said Colm Joseph Toal, Head Coach, Youth Development of AIFF, during the five-day coaching seminar in progress at Navi Mumbai.
"Just look what happened in the camp in Kalyani," he said, shaking his head.
With a vision to get boys for the four regional academies, the federation had, since September 2011, scouted over 170 boys from various age-group tournaments, U-14 fests and open trials conducted across the length and breadth of the country by AIFF's Technical Director Rob Baan and Scott O'Donell, TD of the federation's regional and elite academies.
The selected U-14 boys were then kept in a camp in Kalyani for over a month after which the list was filtered to final 120. But when medically tested, 84 out of 120 were found overage. The camp was for U-14 boys but some of them were found to be even over 17, the AIFF said.
"It seems, we just need to conduct tests almost everyday. The money went waste, the effort and energy went waste, it's so much frustrating and discouraging for the development of the sport in the country," Toal lamented.
Baan asked the coaches to find at least one promising young boy of the right age-group.
"All of you need to make me a promise. Promise me, all of you will come back to me within a month with a kid who you believe has the potential to play for India in the future," he told the 65 coaches attending the seminar.
"You are my scouts. By now, you ought to know as to what kind of player I am looking for. Can You? Promise me," Baan asked. "You can even give me more than one boy. We will have a trial for the kid and if we find him good enough, we will enrol him," Baan added.
The issue of age-fudging has been making the rounds almost every day during the coaching seminar, leading to the conclusion that the launching of the AIFF Academies had to be delayed.
"But they stay on track. We have to have them and we will," O'Donell said.
The second AIFF regional academy is all set to be launched in Bangalore in September and the next one at Pailan World School in Kolkata later this year.
"Open trials are not a realistic approach. In Kolkata, we had over 1,000 boys appearing for the trials. It's hard to handle that much of a lot," felt O'Donell.
According to AIFF's medical consultant Dr Manabendra Bhattacharya, who is also attending the seminar, age verification is a complicated process.
"This is rampant across all age groups and all sports. But how do you stop it. Of course, we can determine it by tests; tests which reveal the dental age, secondary sexual characters and the bone age," he informed the participants.