Lazio insist African footballer Joseph Minala is 17 - despite rumours he is actually 41
Italian club insist striker Joseph Minala is 17, writes James Orr
Lazio have threatened to take legal action against anyone who questions the legitimacy of the age of their 17-year-old Cameroonian forward Joseph Minala, after the club were forced to release documents to prove he is still a teenager, and not in his forties.
The player, who was called up to the Lazio first team for the first time for last Sunday's Rome derby, appears far older than his years, and has had to deny that he told a website that he was really 41, saying: "It's false statements that have been attributed to me by people who do not know and for whom I reserve every action of damage."
The player, who joined the Serie A side last summer, shut down most of his social media accounts following abuse over his appearance. He blocked photos on his Instagram account, deleted his Facebook profile and filtered out Twitter pictures of himself, although he does still tweet.
In a bid to put an end to the speculation, a statement on Lazio's website said that they will: "confirm the absolute legitimacy of the paperwork filed with the federation and denounce the latest attempts, from hostile domains, to cast a sinister light over the club's operations.
"From now on, [the club] announces that it will take any action aimed at ending such behaviour out of respect for the fans and the player while reserving the right to take action against anybody responsible [for such behaviour] to defend the good name of the club and the footballer."
Minala's agent, Diego Tavano told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday: "If you talk to him, then you realise from the way he speaks that he's still absolutely a 17-year-old lad. Joseph had a difficult childhood, that's the issue."