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Friday 19 December  
Nigerian soccer team celebrate with the trophy after winning the U-23 Interconti
Sandesh Bhugaloo's picture
Algiers, Algeria
Algiers, Algeria

Age cheating rampant in African football

Published on : 9 November 2009 - 3:51pm | By Sandesh Bhugaloo
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"Age cheating has become a cancer to African football,” says Medhat Shalaby, media officer of the Egyptian Football Association. "Junior tournaments are running the risk of being inconsequential to the development of African football. Countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon were fond of fielding over aged players in international youth tournaments."

Mr Shalaby’s statement came on the heels of a stunning revelation by former Nigerian international player, Adokiye Amiesimaka, who claimed that Nigeria’s current under-17 captain, Fortune Chukwudi, is about 25 years old.

Chukwudi is at least nine years older than he says he is, according to Mr Adokiye, who’s now a lawyer, in a column in a national newspaper. The player has no business playing in the current FIFA U-17 World Cup, he says.

Fake identity
The problem is not restricted to Nigeria, says the Egyptian Football Association. Mr Shalaby says most African countries allow their players to use fake identity particulars to make them eligible for junior tournaments. It’s a practice that is set to be counterproductive:

"Age cheating is destroying football development in Africa. It makes tournaments useless because some players must not be playing because they are too old.”

In their bid to curb age cheating in football, Football’s world governing body (FIFA) introduced MRI testing to determine the true age of players representing their various nations at the current Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria. In a trial run, 15 out of the Nigerian team’s 32 players failed the test, causing a major controversy.

Arnold Pannenborg, a Dutch journalist and commentator on African football, agrees with FIFA policy:

"Many, if not all African countries 'cheat' with the age of their youth players. We don't have to pretend that it doesn't happen because really, it does. And a lot too. Several high-placed officials within the various associations and the ministries have acknowledged that they are deliberately creating ‘football ages’, so that older players are still eligible for the U-20 and U-17 teams."

Only reliable means
Mr Pannenborg adds that "The tests are currently the only reliable means of determining the ages of players. The recent proposal by the Nigerian NFFs Chairman Sani Lulu to call the parents of the players to ask them the players' ages is ridiculous.”

“Nobody will ever believe that. We live in an age of technology and we should make use of it. Otherwise, what's the point of playing such tournaments if older playing are taking part?"

However, the question remains: How could Chukwudi have escaped the MRI test?

“I really wonder whether the MRI test was done on each and every one of the players,” says Nigerian Lawyer Adokiye. “If, indeed, a thorough exercise was conducted, then FIFA must review the procedure."

Football administrators believe age cheating took a leap after the commercialisation of the game in Africa. Clubs and footballers' agents have been accused of encouraging players alter their age so that it becomes less hard to obtain contracts with European clubs looking out for young talents.

Photo: EPA
Source: Africa Online Media/PM news




Anonymous 25 November 2009 - 5:20am / USA
This problem is driven by economic hardship in these countries. Once upon a time the Nigerian National Team paraded actual teenagers. Henry Nwosu comes to mind. Nigerians themselves point out the cases of age fraud in print and on the Nigerian Football Forum ... it is all there. But again I would like FIFA to also obtain school examination certificates and do due-diligence on some suspect players. This is a real problem for all nations. Kola
Anonymous 17 November 2009 - 6:26am
I hope African nations can get this sickness sorted out. It is rather obvious no matter what anyone says or what you believe. Truth is, it happens around the world but seems rather pervasive here. Why do Africans win so many youth titles but do relatively nothing at the senior level? The truth will always be known, consciously or not, you know what is going on at this level.
Anonymous 15 November 2009 - 1:46pm
Wow! That picture definitely says it all... I wonder how this new revelations from Adokie will affect our place in the WC. We are sure to probably face some sort of sanction (two year ban) if the picture if found to be factual.
Duke (Abuja) 11 November 2009 - 4:01pm
Arnold Pannenborg, a Dutch journalist and commentator on African football: Why did the Dutch team fail woefully in Nigeria 2009? Were they out-muscled by over-aged boys(men)? Or was the Dutch team deficient in creativity,passion,skills,drive? Or was it the question of being naive with lack of football sense because your players were 17 years and under? Mr Arnold, we wait for your response
Duke (Abuja) 11 November 2009 - 3:51pm
This Egyptian(Shalaby) failed to cite his country(Egypt) as an example. Does he want to tell us that those over-aged players who featured in several Egyptian line-ups were verified? And to those who want to use overage as the reason for their country failures, I say the argument is futile. Success on the pitch is the sum of skills,strength,passion,creativity,drive and certainly not just AGE. I believe FIFA created this age group competitions to encourage younger players, PERIOD!!!. The great Pele,of African descent, was 17 years when he dazzled the world. The voices of people like Adokiye and Shalaby are never going to be listened to, for they allege about events they cannot prove. TODAY WE CHALLENGE ADOKIYE to present the DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE HE CLAIMS TO POSSESS, THE SAME WAY HE WROTE HIS ARTICLE IN PRESS, FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE.........Now Mr. Adokiye or forever keep Quiet.
Anonymous 10 November 2009 - 1:27pm
What people fail to understand is, this is African's curse and blessing because people in Africa are slow to develop and slow in getting old. Look at any African man or woman and you find out that they always look younger than their ages. A 25 old man will look 15 and a 60 old man will look 30. Those are just the facts...
Anonymous 10 November 2009 - 1:24pm
What people fail to understand is, this is African's curse and blessing because people are slow to develop and slow in getting old. Look at anyone African man or women and you find out that they always look younger than their ages. A 25 old man will look 15 and a 60 old man will look 30. Those are just the facts...
jasmin 10 November 2009 - 12:41pm
With due regards to H.O. and KB, such practices are very common in sporting nations, so do not feel touchy. Even here in India, coaches and institutions resort to these cheap tactics to win tournaments.My son suffered defeat twice in judo and badminton semi-finals from senior boys, in district tournaments(they had false birth certificates).
KB 9 November 2009 - 9:05pm
I think this is a very irresponsible piece of journalism.How can people make such grave,sweeping statements without a shred of evidence? I am very disappointed with this obvious act of bigotry!
H. O. 9 November 2009 - 4:09pm
For your information, FIFA - football's governing body - has found nothing wrong with the teams that have been presented by African nations at world youth competitions since 1985. Your comments are highly prejudicial based on the fact that African teams have been successful at this level. FIFA has introduced a new system this year to mitigate any untoward actions by all teams participating at youth competitions and still no African team has been adjudged to be fielding overage players at this competition. Your article is highly irresponsible and has no merit - your only agenda is to malign a continent that has continued to win youth competitions at world level which simply highlights the fact that European teams at world youth level continue to decline. When an African team wins the senior world cup, what will your excuse be then. Keep your innuendos to yourself because it simply shows a pathetic individual.

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