Harare - COSAFA has disqualified Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from the Under-17 Championships because of age-cheating.
The quartet was sent back home on Friday after at least one player from each of the teams was detected to be overage by advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
The Zimbabwe Football Association is appealing the decision.
Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini and Zimbabwe miss the chance to fight for a place in continental championships as the top two teams at the COSFA tourney qualify for the next year’s AFCON U17 tournament.
Further, the disqualified teams are banned from taking part in the next two editions of the Under-17 AFCON qualifying competition.
The absence of the four means the format for this year’s COSAFA U17 Championships has to be revised.
In a statement COSAFA said "The disqualification of Botswana, Comoros Islands, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship on the basis of fielding overage players has forced a reset of the competition which will now start on Sunday (November 22, 2020).
“The Confederation of African Football Youth Competitions Committee made the decision to disqualify the teams from the zonal qualifier tournament for the 2021 Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations.
"The quartet all had, at least, one player fail their magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that were conducted in the Host Country prior to the start of the competition. The tournament regulations are very clear in this instance..."
Angola, Malawi, Zambia and hosts South Africa will now battle it out for honours with the final set for November 29.
However, Zimbabwe deny that they fielded any overage players.
The spokesperson of the country’s FA, Xolisani Gwesela, said: "We have appealed against the CAF and COSAFA decision and we are confident that we did not deliberately breach regulations governing the U17 tournament.”
Gwesela demanded that COSAFA release the name of the allegedly overage player.
"The Zimbabwe Football Association is challenging the decision to disqualify our team and has requested COSAFA to avail the name of the player who is alleged to be over the required age. This is indeed surprising and questionable since we carried out similar tests on the boys and disqualified six (6) for failing to satisfy the bone fusion criteria, taking only those determined to be of the correct age," said Gwesela.
"ZIFA does not condone age cheating and will conduct further investigations on how the six (6) who were dropped failed the tests. All the boys that travelled for the tournament were tested at a reputable MRI centre in Harare prior to their departure and the centre used a fairly powerful 1.5T machine.
"The MRI results were also reviewed by a Specialist Radiologist, Dr Z Sirdar. Our chief medical officer Dr Edward Chagonda is also a CAF-certified medical officer while our team doctor, Dr Rabson Zhou, who travelled with the team, has all the test results with him as proof."