Wilfried Nathan Douala: From Alexandre Bardelli to AFCON controversy – a dual identity drama

©Le Monde

FOOTBALL Wilfried Nathan Douala: From Alexandre Bardelli to AFCON controversy – a dual identity drama

Festus Chuma 11:45 - 13.03.2024

Wilfried Nathan Douala faces allegations of identity and age falsification stirring controversy and potential sanctions for Cameroon's football community.

Real identity controversies in sports are rare but often sensational, drawing attention not only to the athletes involved but also to the broader implications for the teams and competitions they are part of.

The curious case of Wilfried Nathan Douala, a Cameroonian midfielder whose past and present have been shrouded in mystery is no exception.

Recently, allegations surfaced that Douala, purportedly 17 years old, might actually be Alexandre Bardelli, a 21-year-old player previously spotted by Le Monde during their coverage in Douala at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) two years ago.

The story begins with a documentary released by the French tabloid Le Monde on March 11, which presented compelling evidence suggesting that Douala had changed his identity from Alexandre Bardelli.

By carefully comparing tattoos and other distinctive features observed when the newspaper visited the player in Douala, the report fueled claims of identity and age falsification.

Douala, a name now embroiled in controversy, was a surprise inclusion in Rigobert Song’s Cameroon squad for the 2023 AFCON in Côte D’Ivoire.

His sudden emergence in the 2023/24 season as a Victoria United FC player, with no prior registration under the name Wilfried Nathan Douala, has raised eyebrows and suspicions alike.

Despite a modest beginning with Oryx Douala, a historic third-tier side, his transition to Victoria United FC and subsequent national team call-up have been nothing short of meteoric and mysterious.

The implications of these allegations are profound. Article 45 of the African Nations Cup regulations mandates an investigation into cases of fraud or falsification, with Article 46 outlining severe consequences, including potential suspension from participation in subsequent editions of the AFCON.

Cameroon, a five-time African champion, now faces the specter of significant sanctions if these claims are substantiated.

In defense of their player, Victoria United has staunchly refuted allegations of double identity involving Douala and teammate Nji Richmond.

A club statement emphasized their belief in a possible error on FECAFOOT's part, assuring that necessary documents had been submitted to clear the players' names.

"We call on our supporters to remain calm as we have submitted the necessary documents to justify that the players do not have a double identity," declared Victoria United, echoing a sentiment of defiance amidst swirling controversy.

The transformation from Alexandre Bardelli to Wilfried Nathan Douala, if proven true, not only challenges the integrity of the player but also casts a long shadow over Cameroon's football governance.

It beckons a closer examination of identity verification processes and the mechanisms in place to prevent such instances of alleged fraud.

The outcome of this investigation will not only determine the fate of a promising young player but also set a precedent for how football authorities address and mitigate the risks of identity fraud in the future.

For now, the football community awaits further developments, hoping for clarity and justice in a tale that blurs the lines between ambition and integrity.

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