Debate erupts in India as fans and clubs question age of ISL’s youngest goalscorer Gourav Mukhi

Gourav Mukhi (Image courtesy: ISL)

As soon as Jamshedpur FC’s Gourav Mukhi equalised for his team in their Indian Super League (ISL) match against Bengaluru FC, ISL’s Twitter handle (the tweet has been taken down since) and commentators termed him the youngest ever scorer (16-years-old) in the tournament’s history.

However, this particular fact didn’t go down too well with fans across the country as he seemingly didn’t possess the physical attributes of a young 16-year old. It was later found out that he served multiple bans for possessing fraudulent age certificates, in order to participate in junior level tournaments.

 

 

 

AIFF statement

Earlier today, Indian football’s governing body the All India Football Federation (AIFF) succumbed to public pressure and issued a statement on the matter. It stated that the forward, who had earlier submitted documents declaring his date of birth as 09/05/1999, has sent in fresh documents which declare his DOB to be 09/05/2002.

‘The Centralised Registration System which registers in-detailed information of every single player for AIFF was not implemented for the National Championships and the State Associations in 2015, but later. The discrepancy in the DOBs will be referred to the relevant committee for appropriate action,’ the AIFF statement continued.

 

15-year-old in 2015 to 16-year-old in 2018!

The Indian National Championships in 2015, which the statement talks about takes us to another facet of the story. In 2015, Mukhi led his Jharkhand (the state he represented) side to the National Sub-Junior Championship title, scoring five goals in the final. He was subsequently called for the trials of India’s under-17 side as the country was preparing to host the U-17 World Cup.

As it turned out, Mukhi, along with four other players, admitted to being overage before the trials and were thus suspended by AIFF for two years. The state association was fined as well. Jharkhand Football Association (JFA) secretary Ghulam Rabbani told Indian Express, “He was around 15 when we won the Championship in 2015. So by that logic, he should be 18 right now.” And the forward is, supposedly, 16 now!

When contacted by FOX Sports Asia, Rabbani said, “I won’t lie our age verification process was not foolproof then, there are players who submitted fake documents and got through, it happens in every state and not just ours. He was called up for the U-17 national team selection and then the age fraud was caught. This is a major problem in grassroots football in India, but its getting better.”

 

Post-suspension

After serving his suspension, Mukhi was set to join the Jharkhand side for India’s regional state tournament, the Santosh Trophy, however, a head injury forced him not to. Subsequently, the forward was picked in the Jamshedpur reserve squad and even played in the I-League second division for them. His performances there caught the eyes of the senior team coaches and he was promoted to the first squad.

Goals in pre-season and then in the ISL against Bengaluru brought him to the fore and since the ‘youngest ISL goalscorer’ claim was made, but the question still remains, what’s his real age?

One of Mukhi’s former teammates talked to us and said, “I know Gourav since his local Jharkhand league days and lower league days, the state association suspended him multiple times before he was absorbed by the Jamshedpur B team. You know how it is here? People submit fake certificates all the time, Gourav is just one of them. You cannot just blame the player, the coaches encourage them to do this.”

Mukhi’s rise to the top of India’s footballing hierarchy highlights how age fudging is a major problem in the region. If it can reach the top of the pyramid, one can only imagine how dirty it would be in the lower echelons.

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