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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 14:28 GMT
What can be done about age cheating?
Kenyan Sports Minister Najib Balala has disbanded all Kenyan international teams after claiming that at least two members of the Under 17 team had falsified their ages.
So how big a problem is age fraud in Africa, and what can be done about it?
It is no secret that African youth teams are often believed to be full of overage players.
Age scandals have rocked countries including Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal in the past.
Now it is Kenya's turn.
Sports Minister Najib Balala has disbanded all his country's national teams after he claimed he had evidence of overage players.
Is such draconian action the way forward for African sport's administrators? Just how big is the problem in African football?
By cheating, some African countries are trying to fool the world in order to get quick results. But what many countries fail to realise is that they are fooling themselves most of all.
The big problem is that there are a lot of people in this world who are willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it means cheating. Unfortunately, a lot of those people can be found in Africa. The only way to stop the age scandals is to pick players from the grassroot academies, so we can be sure that we would have future players to replace the old ones.
This great scourge has eaten so deep into African football that one ponders who should take the blame.
The saddest face to this ugly trend is the fact that players that falsify their ages cannot and will never attain their 'supposed' potential.
The best way to halt this terrible trend is by clamping down on any erring player. Slamming a life ban on such people will make them realise the consequences of such behaviour.
It's high time we portray African football in a better light by being honest with the ages of players that could someday be our future heroes.
The fact is most, if not all, African Junior Championship winning teams have had over-aged players on them. I am suprised that the world is only seeing this now. Just think, if those African junior teams were that good in the late 80's and early 90's, how come only one African team did well at the last World Cup?. It's ironic that Senegal, a team that has not had the success that countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Camerron have had at junior level, is currently the best in Africa. Even the African professionals in Europe lie about their age. When clubs complain about their lack of fitness, the reality is that they are ageing.
This is a very sad and unfortunate situation and the repercussions are enormous. Both Ghana and Nigeria have done well in youth football but have seen abysmal performances at senior level.and The only reasonable explanation for these poor performances is nothing but age cheating. Africa should learn from their European counterparts and not from South America, since they are also guilty of age cheating.
I know African players falsify their ages, which is bad. But why doesn't the BBC write an article about the drunks on the English football team? Or British soccer hooliganism?
The actions of Najib Balala are highly commendable. His honesty should be the way forward for Africa. As a Nigerian, I have said in the past that ALL the Nigerian teams that have been to these age group tournaments have included overaged players. It is nothing new. What surprised me is that it has taken this long to address the issue! When the late educationist Dr Tai Solarin said most of the players who won the Under-17 Fifa tournament for Nigeria in 1985 were overaged he was condemned for being unpatriotic. I agreed with him and that is why I do not have the time of the day for these age group tournaments. The World Cup is the ultimate because it does not matter how old you are so long as you have the ability. If countries do not address the issue now they will find out they are mortgaging the future of Africam football!
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