Age-Cheating In Football: An Enigma To Football In Africa

UNTIL a few years ago, age-cheating was a word known only to those in the public sector profession, but it has become all too prominent in the lexicons of football fans.

On a slow tube ride to my house after a busy Monday at school, a football journalist was on radio elaborating on how age – cheating has bring disrepute to Africa football,after ex-President of Patizan Belgrade, Zarko Zecevic,openly declared that ex-Inter Milan and Nigerian defender Taribo West was 40 – and not 28 as he claimed ,when he was plying his trade with the Serbia side in 2002. Taribo West ,according to Zarko , was older than his normal age and was lying about his age.Yet Taribo West has come out to rubbish that claim,calling it “nonsense, not relevant, absolute rubbish and does not make any sense”

But to write of age-cheating in today’s football, in a sense, is to gild the lily. What can be said that has not been said a thousand times before , not least by oneself ? Age – cheating have been long battled by FIFA at youth tourneys and football is abounds each and every time with rumuors of players, usually from African, simply because they want to boost their market value by claiming to be years younger than they are.But soon the game may have to guard against this persisting phenomenon , with players doctoring their passport to lower their dates of birth. This kids may be all right,but not where it’s at the moment…

Sometimes it is said in African that every footballer from this continent, has two ages for themselves ,the normal football [ official [ age and the biological [ actual ] age which is known by close family members,friends and the environment in which the player were born .But when a player goes off the boil, he is said to be out of form, but when a veteran does the same ,it is blamed on his age. But people should know that the hip time for a footballer is not in their teens, twenties or even thirties….

Age – cheating in football ; an enigma to football in Africa is a gnawing and mistrustful paradox that lies at the heart of many African footballers…

But why is this trend still persisting………..?
Most of the age – cheating is intentional and aimed at securing contracts in Europe.They fix their age mostly to the level of teens because scout are always on the look out for the young talents to export to Europe..

A typical case is what i read about two years back, when KEN MENSAH editor of Ghana spoke to Ben Clottey ,who biologically was 25 but the document on paper shows he was 17.But one may be quick to ask ,what did prompted Ben to do that? The reason only Ben could give was ” he want to gain admission to one of the academies in Ghana,after failing on several attempts with his correct age”i…

Every up and coming footballers desire is to make it to the top, own luxurious mansion filled with cars ,but have forgotten what “FIFA Fair Player” code 5 says………

“”Football is the world’s greatest game.But it always needs everybody’s help to maintain it greatness.Think of football’s interest before your own.Think how your actions may affect the image of the game””

But who is promoting age – cheating in football………?

The question is as simple as the heading .Admittedly ,one may find it difficult to point out who to be held responsible for this problem. But the prime facilitator orchestrating this practice are parents and team managers who convince them to “doctor” the age of this noble players, in order to make the grade for an age – restricted team..

African Historian and Author of African Soccerscape ; How a Continent change the World’s Game, told CNN that

“Almost everyone up and down the commodity chain is involved……from coaches and recruiters to family and the players themselves”

A member of the 1991 Black Starlets teams which won the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Italy,Yaw Preko in an interview with JOY SPORTS revealed that he never played with his right age as professional footballer.The former R.S.C Anderlecht and Black Star affirmatively admitted that,the then football administrators were the ones who will give you the age.You go with your colt’s card,and they take two or three years out of it We were able to reduce it to the right age that is why i was able to play 17 years in Europe,Preko added. Yaw Preko’s remarks came after Under-17 of Ghana was at the spotlight as several players failed a MRI scan…….

The Adverse Effect Of Age – Cheating On a Player and Country……….

Age – cheating in football, which is not a new phenomenon with some Africa countries and the world as a whole , has not help most of the players to move to the next cadre of the national team and even at club level.Because when you expect to see them at the senior level,after exploit at the junior ranks, you will discover that such player are not fit enough to make it to the main team.

Using over-age players for age group competition is one of the major reasons why football has not fully developed in Africa.It has done a lot of damage and a great deal of disservice to the beautiful game and the image of the country at the international stage.

For the individual or the player, it may be an advantage for them on a certain period of time but it will get to a time when injuries begins to set-in ,the recovery rate to normal level will be difficult ,which brings a perfect combination of the Law Of Diminishing [ Marginal ] Returns..

For the country, it brings the football reputation chalked in jeopardy.

Nigerian Football Federation,for instance, had to debunk the controversy surrounding the real age of FORTUNE CHUKWUDI ,then captain of Nigerian U-17 team that participated in the Korea U-17 World Cup, after Adokiye Amiesimaka , a Nation Cup winner with Nigeria in 1980, raised question about the real age of Fortune,who Adokiye claims he was at least nine years older then what the player was saying.

Adokiye who was a club administrator somewhere in 2002 in Nigeria, said Fortune was 18 years back then, but represent Nigeria at that tourney. This issue was a dent to the reputation of Nigerian football….

Measures to Curb Age – Cheating in Football………

Confederation of African Football [ CAF ] issued a directive that all – age group players must undergo MRI scans for the determination of the real age of players ,which was timely intervention to restore sanity and fair play in the beautiful game .That scan Magnetic Resonance Imaging dropped 10 out of 20 U-17 players of Ghana Black Starlets assembled by Paa Kwesi Fabin after a compulsory MRI scan.

But the penultimate way forward to eradicate age – cheating is by organising seminars for young players to enlighten their knowledge on the effects of age – cheating in football.Also, journalist who dig deep in finding the truth in our modern football should not be subjected to all kinds of vilification,but rather commended ……….

In the same vein. I wish to call on all football enthusiast,parents , administrators, agents and et al to uphold FIFA’s maxim of “FAIR PLAY”