Once again, and not for the last time, Zimbabwean football has been dragged through the mud.

What started as a chance for young players to showcase their talent and prove to the region that grooming players at grassroots level still exists in the country, has ended in catastrophe.

The national U-17 team was disqualified from this year’s COSAFA championship in South Africa for fielding over-age players in the regional showpiece.

”The Confederation of African Football (CAF) Youth Competitions Committee made the decision to disqualify the teams (Zimbabwe Eswatini, Comoros and Botswana) from the zonal qualifier tournament for the 2021 Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations on Friday.

“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,” read the COSAFA statement.

This embarrassing setback might just be one of the headline stories but in actual fact, it mirrors the sorry state of football in the country.

To imagine that it is actually regarded as normal for players to cheat their age, is a mockery of the beautiful game and leaves more questions than answers.

For how long have players cheated age without being caught?

Who at ZIFA was in charge of the team and their national documents?

What message does that send to those who want to invest in football?

The unfortunate and most immediate answer to all the foregoing questions is that Zimbabwean football has been painted by a black brush, a setback which also affects to recruitment of youngsters to clubs outside the country, as the agents will just assume that age-cheating is the order of the day.