‘The most mature 17-year-old in the world’ – Footballer from Cameroon’s national team suspended for ‘false identity’

At the AFCON among the Cameroon stars of Vincent Aboubakar (32) and André Onana (27) was the surprise selection of the youngest player at the tournament: Wilfried Nathan Douala. 

The seventeen-year-old was playing for Victoria United, a club in the Limbé region of Cameroon, and his selection stood out alongside Leonel Ateba as the only two players still playing in the nation’s league system to be called up. 

A moment of excitement about “the rare pearl” quickly dissipated as questions arose about the relevance and suitability of selecting an inexperienced and ‘young’ attacking midfielder, and already doubts about his age had begun to set in. 

Camerounfoot described him with a tongue-in-cheek statement that he was “the most mature 17-year-old in the world.” Douala didn’t appear for the side and was never included in the match-day squads as they exited the tournament at the Round of 16 stage to finalists Nigeria. 

What he offered the team and why he was selected was never quite addressed, and if for footballing reasons this selection was a terrible mistake, then on the 10th of March the seriousness of this error was confirmed. Douala was suspended for falsifying his identity and the player was sanctioned. 

The real identity of Wilfried Nathan Douala

Le Monde has allegedly confirmed the ‘true identity’ of Douala, as they had by chance interviewed a player bearing a striking resemblance to the midfielder two years prior; the same scar on their right eyebrow and identical tattoos. Both have the number 69 on their left arm, a cross near the right hand, and three black strips below their left knee. 

The attacking midfielder they had spoken to at the time went by the name Alexandre Bardelli and said he was 21 years old. He was at the time playing for Oryx and talked to the paper about his burning desire to become a professional, “It’s possible by sacrificing myself… Until I reach my goal, I will continue to train. I love football.

Speaking in private to players from Oryx, Le Monde was able to confirm that Douala and Bardelli were as they suspected, one and the same. The paper continued to dig deeper and found that the number Bardelli had provided to them, had changed to that of Douala’s mother. 

When this number was contacted, Douala’s mother was evasive on the matter telling them “There are nicknames and everything that goes with them. It does not matter.” While relatives contacted only suggested that there was a “resemblance” between the man and the mature boy. 

The case of Cameroon and Douala investigated by CAN

Le Monde had contacted the Cameroonian federation about the matter two days before the start of the AFCON, and asked several times about the matter but were unwilling to react. It has left not only the player-sanctioned but the federation open to repercussions. 

The Confederation of African Football can now open an investigation into whether there has been fraud or identity theft. If this is then proven, the national team can be punished by being excluded from the next two AFCONs.

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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