All is set for the 17th African U-20 Championship- Libya 2011, scheduled to be held from 18th March – 1st April 2011. The draws conducted on Tuesday, January 4 in Tripoli, Libya saw the host drawn against Mali, Egypt and Lesotho in Group A whilst Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gambia were drawn in Group B. The semi finalists will represent the continent at the FIFA U-20 World Cup slated for Colombia next year. Ghana’s Black Satellites are the defending champions.
However, the issue of age cheating has again been raised. Age cheating has been identified as a major reason behind Africa’s inability to record significant success at the top level despite its enormous pool of talents at Her disposal.
“Age cheating has become a cancer of African football”, says Medhat Shalaby, media officer of the Egyptian FA. “Youth tournaments are running the risk of being in consequential to the development of African football.” Countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon are fond of fielding over aged players in international youth tournaments. This problem isn’t restricted to these countries alone, most African countries allow their players to use falsify their information to make them eligible for junior tournaments. It is a practice that is set to be counter productive.
Age cheating is destroying football development in Africa. It makes youth tournaments useless because of what use is a youth tournament if adults are those playing in it?
In a bid to curb age cheating in African football, FIFA, introduced MRI testing to determine the true ages of players representing the various nations at Age Grade tournaments. This hasn’t been so successful as evident at the U-17 World Cup held in Nigeria in 2009. Many countries that field over aged players look for ways to avoid the test.
If a closer look is taken at the teams that have qualified for this years AYC, I’m pretty sure a lot of over aged players will be discovered. They have stuck to the horrible mentality of winning at all costs. This has continued to hinder football development on the continent over the years. Or how else do we explain it, African seem to succeed at youth level but the ‘stars’ of these tournaments seem to fizzle out soon after whereas their European and South American counterparts go on to become world stars. Football is fast becoming a sport for the youths, not adult pretending to be youth.
Several reasons have been given as reasons why people falsify their age. Some blame it on poverty, adding that the players do not get the opportunity as is obtainable in other continents like Europe hence they become desperate and falsify documents to play in these tournaments. Others say it is the failure of most African national teams, particularly in the World Cup, that make the national associations desperate for glory.
But should there be any excuse for cheating? No! No cheating can be justified.
If Africa, as a continent, ever wants to record any significant success in football at the highest level, age falsification has to be done away with entirely. Decisive actions must be taken to ensure that age cheats no longer have their way and punishments should be handed out to anyone caught. This will send a strong message to those who still intend to cheat in future. That way, the real youngsters have room to blossom. More effort should be channeled to grass root football development.
Age Falsification puts football development in reverse. Moving forward by desisting from such act might be tough initially but definitely with time we’ll break even and eventually reap the rewards of being honest.