Nigeria, who have been one of the more successful countries in youth football in recent years,have been using over-aged players in junior and youth competitions, according to the country’s sports minister.

“We have for a while now been fielding players far above the ages agreed for some of the international age-group competitions,” said sports minister Steven Akiga.

“This has not helped our football and as such we must now fight against these age cheats.”

Nigeria won the FIFA Under-17 championship in 1985 and 1993 and were losing finalists in 1987 and 2001. Their Under-20 team also reached the 1989 final of the FIFA World Youth Championships.

The country was banned from age group competitions for two years by FIFA in 1989 after FIFA discovered three players – Samson Siasia, Andrew Uwe and Dahiru Sadi – were older than they claimed.

The issue of the players’ ages was raised on the eve of the World Cup finals, last summer when Kashimawo Laloko, a former technical director of the Nigeria Football Association, claimed that some of the players in the Nigerian squad were in their forties.