Players getting worshipped, hymns of praise are sung on the terraces, young children are indoctrinated into the cult, grown men go about clothed in the robes of the game and yelling yobs proclaim the virtues their team on public transport. Yes, The game of football has become the modern opium for the masses as quite a good number of world population has grown addicted to the sport.
However, the forbidden fruit of dishonesty that comes from age cheating has become a problem that has continued to give the name of football a black eye.
The disgraceful age cheat has become stain that has overpowered the gloss of the beautiful game and it’s generally perceived that most African footballers(if you agree with me) lie about their ages, leading to the different age fabrication controversies in football.
Have you Ever wondered why African teams tend to perform better at FIFA cadet level but their progression never transcends to National team l? Why does African nations embark on this ride on dishonesty We cal Age Cheat.
Using Nigeria and as a case study
Nigeria is the most successful nation in the World Cadet (U-17) tournament history, winning the title five times more than any but the nation’s national team has never gotten as far as the quarter finals despite appearing on 6 occasions. see where I’m going here ?
The La Masia, Ajax youth academy, Manchester United academy and the likes are great footballing academy that has produced some amazing talents over the yrs for both club and various countries. These academies are built on a legacy of production of talent to aid development of
Football for both the parent club and the country as a whole.
Before I fully delve into the issues with our league, let’s take a flash back to the FIFA U17 world cup hosted by Nigeria in 2009. The Nigerian team had a star boy called Stanley Okoro who was 17 yrs as at then
He was nicknamed “Little Messi ” because he was a left footer and also takes on players alot. His looks weren’t looking like that of a 17yrs but the team filled with mostly old players (obviously) went into the tournament as favourite. At the end of the tournament, the Nigerianteam finished the competition 2nd loosing the final to Switzerland. 10 afterwards, Stanley Okoro is back in the local league with Plateau United after failed stints in Europe. The team could could only produce 2 current Super Eagles player in Onazi and Kenneth Omeruo.
The rest of the team is no where to be found. Players like Isco, Seferovic, Heung-Min Son, Morata, Gotze, Neymar, Ter Stegen, Ricardo Rodriguez and the likes played in that same competition and are main stay for their respective clubs and Countries. It’s really saddening
The way football is been run in Nigeria. The best national team side we ever had (1994 set) was in an era when we had a functional league and young players from the junior team were eased into the National team based on their abilities.
The African U20 championship will flag on Saturday, with Nigeria featuring in the competition. The age issue highlighted earlier in my opinion is still present in this team. No matter how well a team does in any youth competition, if the players are over aged, progression of those players
Into the senior team would be impossible because of the players would have a shorter span.of active and top football to offer.
Nigerian League Still In The Dark Ages
As we all know, The league is poorly run by the administrators and government. You still see problems of crowd violence, poor pitches, unpaid players and the likes In this era. The national team is crying for talents but we can’t develop them locally. We are looking for the next Enyeama, Finidi Gorge, Stephen Keshi and even a player that would be able to replace a dying unique bred player of Obi Mikel which seems impossible.
How long do we have to look up to England, Netherlands and Germany to develop talents for us??
How long do we have to watch our local league rot???
How long do we have to continually face issues of age cheat in our youth grade competitions???
These are the questions weShould be asking ourselves. The South African league has been excellently run to the extent that AJAX F.C signs players from the league to their youth academy. The stadiums in their league is mostly packed full especially with games involving Pirate and Keizer Chiefs. Their clubs earn money from match tickets and sponsorship deals from top countries. Their national team is also filled with players from their league. All these would not be possible if money was not APPROPRIATELY spent in the right areas. Thier football is developing gradually at a fast pace nd if they keep it up, they would dominant African football in no time.
Nigerian football administrators need to do a rethink on how to run the league to attract sponsorship and Television views. Once the league is functional, quality players would be produced from club’s academies.
More of our local players would be able to move to good sides in Europe and also our local clubs would be able to win continental club competitions. Gradually a new era would begin to surface for our football but all these can only be possible if we decide to take football administration seriously in Nigeria.
Article written by @AkinteSegun