By John Ojidoh
When I read on the pages of the print media that FIFA intends to use the MRI age test for the forthcoming U-17 Championship, I was excited to the level of fulfilment. It appears that Sepp Blatter and his FIFA are set to return to the glory of sporting morality that had for a long time been je
opardised and violated through massive age fraud and deliberate infraction of its statutes with impunity.
Most member countries have been running football like manors and government ministries and adopting means measures designed to win age grade competitions as a matter of life and death.
The surprising thing is that despite their ill-gotten superiority they never mature to the adult level. As long as the players are inferior in size and weight, they are fielded as youths even when they are above 23 years of age and possess in many cases as many passports as they can obtain with perjury and forgery. This fraud exists and subsists among those countries (mostly in Africa) that do not have or observe compulsory National Birth Registration Law.
As far back as 1985 Nigeria won the maiden edition of FIFA-KODAK U-16 Cup (now U-17) in China and reached the final in 1987 in Toronto and won the silver. It has won the competition on three more occasions and are currently the defending champions. It may sound unpatriotic but it is true that my dear country like a few others has been indulging in massive age fraud.
We had been sanctioned before without learning our lesson. Other countries have joined in the age fraud game and are boasting that they will cause major upsets in â€œNigeria 09″. The minnows look set to kill giants. Groundnuts-shaped Gambia with a population less than any Nigerian state are the current African champions. Mali, Burkina Faso, Angola and Ghana are among the minnows coming up. all hoping to perform wonders at the championship.
Nigeria has sacked Nwosu and employed another coach who had been talking big raising the hope of NFF and the nation. Our victory in 2007 was celebrated lavishly as if we had won the senior cup and both money, gifts and national honours were copiously squandered and I am sure we were hoping for a repeat when FIFAâ€™s bombshell exploded. What bothered me to write this piece is the overt discomfort with which people are reacting to FIFAâ€™s MRI Test Move. Some went to the extent of saying that the Eaglets are in â€œDisarrayâ€ and have pulled out of a scheduled competition.
There is also this allegations that 16 Eaglets failed the FIFA test. Even replaced coach Nwosu ate his word and says now the Eaglets can go no where again.
My one million naira question is â€œWhy all these noise, discomfort, despair and anxiety? 204 nations are involved and the 32 teams who qualified for the Nigeria 2009 championships will be subjected to the same test which provides a level playing ground for all for the first time ever.
â€œWhat is cause for the Goose is sauce for the Ganderâ€ is the old wise saying applicable to this scenario.
FIFA as a kind father has given all participating teams enough time to adjust to the new order; otherwise it would have applied the test like drug test any time without warning in advance.
There is no doubt that by this measure FIFA has put the hangmanâ€™s noose on participating teams to purge themselves of age fraud or be hanged on the next â€œtill ye be dead â€” May the Lord have mercy on your soul.â€ I am sure involved national associations, coaches, players and sponsoring agents must be having hypertension and spasm. The cure is â€œRule of Lawâ€ and inspecting statutes rules and regulations as citizens, Christians, Moslems and non-adherents.
In this case, I dare say that no age test will be 100% accurate but there may be statistical deviation of about 2.5% (Positive or Negative). We may have 2.5% over-age to pass the test or 2.5% under-age to fail the test (my personal opinion) as a result of maturation but it would not be of the massive type that bring disrepute into the game. I can very well remember that at â€œKaduna 77″, of the two Azikiwe brothers â€” the junior failed the age test while the senior passed but that is an insignificant exception.