Age cheating is a problem in football. Some footballers have taken years away from their real ages to play for as long as possible. However, when you get falsely accused, it can badly affect your career.
When Joseph Minala burst into the scene as a 17-year-old footballer, many people questioned his real age. He seemed more mature than his peers. This controversy followed him since then, and has lost numerous opportunities. Where is he today?
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Joseph Minala’s Background
Minala was born in 1996 in Yaounde, Cameroon. He played football in Cameroon and was scouted by agents who promised to take him to AC Milan for trials.
His parents financed his trip to Italy, only for him to get abandoned at the train station. At the time, Minala was a teenager and didn’t know anyone in Italy.
He went to the police station for assistance hoping to be flown back to Cameroon. However, because he was a minor, they took him to a welfare home.
Whilst in the welfare home, Minala learned baking to support himself should his footballing ambitions not come to pass.
Path into Football
Joseph Minala played amateur football in Rome. Late super agent Mino Raiola spotted him and took him to Napoli. His display aroused the interest of several clubs, including Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan. However, in 2013, Minala decided to join Lazio.
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Age Cheating Claims
After Joseph Minala’s age was announced publicly in 2014, different sources disputed his age. One such source alleged the footballer was 42 years old.
This prompted an investigation from the Italian federation, which found that Minala was telling the truth.
Lazio football club wasn’t pleased with the allegation and condemned the claims. Max Evangelista, a journalist who covers the Lazio youth team, defended Minala.
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The Aftermath of His Controversy
By the time Joseph Minala was cleared of wrongdoing, he’d played three games for Lazio. The midfielder was loaned to Serie B teams, including Bari, Latina, Qingdao Huanghai, and Salernitana. He spent a significant amount of time at Salernitana, having played 62 games, but failed to secure a permanent deal.
Minala returned to Lazio, where his contract ended in the 2020/21 season. Subsequently, he joined Serie C club Lucchese for one season, where he made 19 appearances and scored three goals. The Cameroonian then moved to Olbia, where he featured in 12 games. In 2023, Minala joined the Latvian football club Liepaja.
Currently, Minala plays for the most successful football team in Malta, Sliema Wanderers.
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Minala on the Controversy
Joseph Minala said that the age-faking claims derailed his young career. He insists that people were interested in judging him by his off-field look instead of his performance on the field.
“I performed well for other teams. Nonetheless, that wasn’t enough to secure opportunities that other players had in Lazio. Having come through the Lazio academy, I expected the coach (Simone Inzaghi) to give me more opportunities in the first team as some players on a lower level got.”
Additionally, Minala said several high-profile clubs were interested in signing him, but due to the age-cheating claims, they withdrew.
Joseph Minala, in a variety of ways, was a victim of circumstance. Having made his way to Italy to pursue a football dream only for him to find himself at the center of a scandal was unfortunate. One wonders how far he could have reached at the highest level.
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