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Gender protest against Equatorial Guinea soccer

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

CAIRO -- African soccer's ruling body will investigate claims that Equatorial Guinea fielded a man on the team that played in the final of the recent women's continental championship.

The Confederation of African Football said Friday it would look into a protest lodged by the Nigerian Football Federation over "the gender status" of a player, which it did not name.

"The protest has been registered and submitted to the competent committee, CAF Sports Medicine Committee, for inquiries and follow up," CAF said.

Defending champion Equatorial Guinea lost to Nigeria in the Nov. 14 final. The Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana teams all complained that Equatorial Guinea had fielded men at the tournament.

Only Nigeria has lodged an official complaint with CAF. Both Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea qualified for next year's women's World Cup in Germany.

Opposing teams expressed doubts over the genders of captain Genoveva Anonma and striker Salimata Simpore in South Africa, leading to Equatorial Guinea's soccer federation, Feguifoot, to deny accusations that they were men.

"Accusations about the supposed presence of men are totally unfounded," the Equatorial federation said in a statement Tuesday. "(We) consider the information issued as evidence of an inferiority complex.

"(The allegations) are by groups of people that watch with pessimism the progress made by Equatorial Guinean soccer."

Anonma, who plays for German club USV Jena, told the BBC that she has already been gender tested, which she found "offensive." It is not clear if Anonma, or Simpore, is the player in question.

FIFA's executive committee approved new guidelines on gender verification just last month following the high-profile case in track involving South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya.

Semenya, who was also accused of being a man competing in women's sport by fellow competitors, was subjected to gender tests by the International Association of Athletics Federations and didn't compete for 11 months. She was eventually cleared to continue running as a female in July.

Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer, said the body recommends setting up a panel of medical experts, including a gynecologist or urologist, endocrinologist, psychologist and sports physician, to examine each case -- putting players through tests similar to those reportedly undergone by Semenya.

CAF has not outlined what procedure, if any, will be followed by its Sports Medicine Committee, but Dvorak said the issue of gender verification is "complex."

"If there is a justified query then we have proposed a procedure for gender verification for players of both genders ... to protect the dignity and privacy of the individual and also to ensure a level playing field for all players," Dvorak told The Associated Press.

"In contrast with cheating with doping, this is a completely different issue. The situation is complex. No short cuts are justifiable."

Equatorial Guinea was also accused of fielding male players in 2008 when it won the African Women's Championship, beating defending champion and overwhelming favorite Nigeria in the semifinals. It is still the only country other than Nigeria to win Africa's women's title.