Not all is how it appears in the world of African football...
With the World Cup only months away Africa has become the centre of the world’s attention.
That is natural as some of the best players in the world come from Africa and there are of course some great teams. How will the teams fare though when it comes down to the actual games?
And why is it that at U20 and U17 the African teams do so well yet when it comes to the World Cup proper they really have struggled to make an impact?
For me there are a number of reasons the main one being the issue of age cheating. Having been involved in African football I understand some of the problems we have, for example in many cases the children are born in small rural villages, miles away from any real infrastructure and are not registered properly.
This can be understood to a certain extent and is a valid reason but what I don’t understand is when coaches and administrators knowingly allow and even encourage the young players to lie about their age. I have in many cases myself removed players who I knew to be overage.
Fielding such players does not help in any way the development of players in that particular country. For starters having a 22-23 year old participate in an U20 competition benefits nobody.
The player may benefit short term but long term, it is going to hurt the development of the whole youth structure of the country.
For the players, if they are two or three years over age, they could look bigger and better than their team mates and therefore catch the eye of a European scout or club and this has happened in the past. The problem is that most of them are found out down the line.
In doing this we are really denying the real talent of the country and the opportunity to produce legitimate African stars and as history has shown us there are plenty of them waiting for their opportunity.
FIFA has yet again stepped up a gear in its efforts to curb this disease in African football ( let me say it is not an exclusively African problem) and at the U17 World Cup will be using the new x-ray methods to determine the real age of the player to within a couple of months.
This is the best thing that could have happened and I expect that once it has been tested it will be introduced to all age group competitions and send the right message to the whole world.
You can read more about Stephen by visiting his website