By Onochie Anibeze

Last week, I asked readers to react on the cheating in age grade competitions as was  highlighted by ex international  Adokiye Amiesimaka in his comment in Vanguard two weeks ago.

Astute sports journalist Mitchell Obi called to bare his mind this way:

“I have just finished reading you. There’s something that we are missing in the champaign against cheating in junior competitions. The emphasis should be in the U-17 category, not U-20 and the Olympic team. I say so because at 20 a boy is already a man and can play for the senior team.

It is the age of maturity in sports. If you are 25 and claim to be 20, the difference in output in a team sport may not be significant. You may not be able to muscle a strong 20 year-old. It is not so at U-17 where the youth is just growing and full of exuberance. A 25 year-old can muscle a 17 year old.

That’s why FIFA is more concerned in cheating at U-17 than in other age categories upward. But the point you people are not making is that the players who cheat at the end of the day cheat themselves. If a  player who is about  25 claims that he is 15 or 16 and plays for U-17 team and shines and gets signed up by a club abroad, he will be sent to the junior team of that  club as he cannot sign professional contract until he is 17 or  above.

It means that he may be getting professional contract at his real age of 27 or 28. How many years will he then put in when at 30 he is supposed to be planning his retirement? When all expect fire, some kind of high performance from the player based on his passport age and his performance begins to dwindle the world will know that he has lied about his age.

By telling lies on his age and not getting professional contract in time the player has shortened the span of his career. So who loses? This has happened to many of our players. Those who lie at U-17 cheat themselves and that’s where our emphasis against cheating should be.”

Another reader who is close to me took time to explain to me why we may not achieve much on the champaign against cheating:

“Onochie, did you read the same Adokiey’s comments in your paper on line? Did you not see that most of the readers attacked him for condemning our team? People even felt that he was not patriotic. You wonder what is patriotism. The problem is that cheating has become part of us. The civil servants lower their ages so that they can last long in service.

People generally lie about their ages, so players should not be singled out for condemnation. It is all part of the corruption that we see in public and private offices, in our lives. It is a national problem.  Don’t Nigerians cheat in elections, in businesses, in contract awards, in selling and buying, in our homes,  in everything?

That’s why some people feel that you people in sports are being noisy about a common thing in our society. It is bad that people feel that way but that’s the truth about Nigeria.” The speaker was calm and picked her words slowly apparently for emphasis.

Did it dawn on me that we are in trouble? Please read other reactions:

Onochie, I read your column in today’s Vanguard. I want to associate myself with observations and comments made by Adokiye Amiesimaka and Dr. Ken Anugweje. Of course we should discourage cash prizes to players of Under-17.

Also, any player featuring in the Premier League or aborad shouldn’t be allowed to be part of U-17 and U-20 national teams. The NFF and government should be fully encouraged to stick to this as a development programme for the next five years. Government and Nigerians should not condemn NFF and players for not wining trophies.
— Sani Toro (Former NFA Scribe).

• As long as our administrators and footballers remain Nigerians there’s no way that cheating in age competitions will stop. Nigerians must always cut corners in anything they are involved.
Please, don’t publish my particulars.

• Re: Did you read Adokiye Amiesimaka?
Sports writers and some ex-internationals particularly Odegbami and Adokiye have said a lot on this over age issue but NFF will always want to play a smart one on Nigerians by looking for overaged, baby -face players for age-group competitions. If various clubs/academies are to submit bio-data of invited players this will help to check cheating.

Dike should be sanctioned for Nwafor’s invitation. NFF Secretariat also stand accused.
Omogero — 08056439015

When truth is said at a wrong time it is wrong. Amiesimaka does not see other tribes in that team? Also you, Onochie, was Stanley the only man in that team? To be a good writer is not destroying your brother on pages of newspaper.
Sunday Uzo, 08058581713

My brother Onochie, I read your piece and I agree with everything but not with the issue of monetary reward. An Ajegunle boy in a killer country who has toiled for over 10 years to get a break in his football, a boy who must have paid coaches and agents to make a big tournament, person wey don plan a tour through the Sahara to Malta or Libya or Wiava, you say make him collect gold wristwatch? Common Onochie, this is still a very poor country with basic things still a big deal. We are not a first world like Spain. The administrators, coaches, you and I know the overaged players.

But let’s not deny the poor guys their due.
Steve Osuji, 08033124151

Dike opened his mouth in self-adoration without knowing he was opening can of worms. I believe 99 per cent of our guys in that tournament are above 25 years, not even 20 years. I think it’s high time we enacted law making it a crime for parents, their wards and coaches to field overaged players in tournaments. I’m ashamed of both the coaches and players.

Concerning your piece, I want to make it clear that Africans don’t use their real ages in anything they do. Please can you tell me the real age of Sam Okon Peter, the boxer? He may be 50 or even the age of our president. We are suffering it as a country. They will keep on collecting the punches.

Celestine Ogbonna, Abuja

The way Ajagun dribbled past defenders for Dolphin once made me ask coach Eguma where he got the player from. He said he got him from Cruzeiro of Kaduna after one FA Cup tie. That was in 2008. The guy later played for U-17 and now U-20. Adokiye is right. Na PH we day.
From FCA — 08037045943


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