Age Cheating directive to the U-17 team’s coaches: NFF’s Tentative First Steps

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NFF President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari
NFF President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari

There is a proverb in Yoruba which says: ‘Aje ke lana, omo ku leni, tani o mo pea je ana lo pa omo (a witch cried yesterday, a child dies today, who doesn’t know that the witch that cried yesterday killed the child that died).

I wish I could actually lay claim to this proverb (although I’m not a witch or wizard!) following my piece last week titled: “Will Nigeria Ever Tackle Age Cheating in Sports?” in which I pointed out how cheating was affecting the ‘beautiful game’ in the country.

Whether coincidentally (or the Yoruba proverb?) a few days after the article, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) banned the Golden Eaglets handler from inviting any player from the domestic league to his team!

The NFF also said it had directed the U-17 team’s coaches to ensure that only players within the age limit were invited to the team. The Glass House further said that newly appointed technical director, Tom Saintfiet, would help in ensuring that the country had no need to use over age players in youth competitions (a tacit acknowledgement that they used too?).

Very good words, but the football body should back the flowery words with action by actually ensuring that genuine kids finally make the Golden Eaglets team.

Last week I pointed out how difficult it was for a former Golden Eaglets coach to realise this dream, so the NFF should back up the new man saddled with the job by helping to dig into the background of the players to ensure they are actually youngsters.

Speaking to journalists in Lagos, NFF President, Aminu Maigari, said the federation was determined to ensure that youth competitions helped the country in getting players for a formidable senior national team, adding that the era of winning junior championships by all means was over.

He can go a long way be realising this by sticking with the manager through rain or shine and not putting him out to dry once results do not go as expected (which is what happened to Monday Odige).

NFF Acting Secretary General, Musa Amadu even went further by saying that the federation would soon set up a database to document all information about the players, stressing that the era of age cheating among national players would soon a be a thing of the past.

He added: “We are focusing on building a solid team for the future. Experience has shown that we have not made proper use of all our players, who excelled at the youth teams, unlike what is done in some European countries like Spain, Italy and others, where the bulk of their present senior national teams were drawn from the team that participated in the past two world youth championships.”

One can only hope that this will actually happen and in a few years time we to can point to players who once featured for the Golden Eaglets proving their worth at the senior level.

And by the way, was I spot on like the Yoruba proverb? I wish I could say yes but whether it was like the Yoruba proverb or coincidence, one must give kudos to the NFF for taking the first tentative steps to ending age cheating.

By Tunde Sulaiman

In : Sports