ROME, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Italian soccer club Società Sportiva Lazio released an official statement denying that 17-year-old player Joseph Minala is not actually 41.
Minala responded to the allegation in a statement posted on the club’s website.
“I have read the alleged statements posted on the website senego.net in which it says I confessed my real age which was different to what was stated in my [official] documents,” the statement reads. “They are false statements that have been attributed to me by people who do not know.”
Caso Minala, il comunicato ufficiale del Club: http://t.co/9us32169aZ— SS Lazio (@officialsslazio) February 12, 2014
Lazio has threatened legal action against the Senegalese website, which claimed that Minala said he was 41. According to the club, Minala’s birth certificate is "absolutely legitimate.”
Minala joined the Rome team last summer.
"He is a very reactive player. You could never say he is 41," Italian journalist Max Evangelista told BBC World Service. “When you are surrounded by players running like devils around you, in my opinion it is very tough to be 41. He runs, he is fast. It is unbelievable news, that is why Lazio felt the need to deny it.”
Evangelista blames the young player’s looks on a tough life.
"He was in an orphanage for a couple of years in Cameroon, then he had to face the situation here by himself. It is a controversial story because the face of the player is not that of a 17-year-old guy. On his face there is sign of his previous life, which was not a happy life. That is it. Period. There is nothing else that makes you think he is 41."
[SS Lazio] [BBC Sports]