Every news on the radio is now a bad news; if it is not a matter of crumbling economy, it is a matter of rape, kidnapping, and murder. Nigeria sits on a burning coal as her royal cathedra experiences a mighty firestorm. We are currently shedding tears due to terrorist attacks, dollars unfairness, secession tales, and recession gist. As though we are not discomforted enough, the issue of a Nigerian footballer alleged to have falsified his age trends globally – a slap on the player, spits on his country, and a pile of GO WRONGS for our fatherland. Let us get the gist infra.
Nigeria soccer star, Victor Emenayo, who moved from SC Villa of Uganda to join Shahdagh Qusar FK, is currently the object of ridicule in Azerbaijain as the media over there tables fact showing that the 23 years claimed by Victor is one huge lie as his papers showed he was 28 years while in his former club. It is held strongly that Victor has more than one passport as the current evinces an age short of 5 solid years. The social media has unrestrained jests and abuses at one of us, they say he is clearly over 40 years of age and looks older than their head coach – his wrinkled face indeed betrays him. The club is mute on this, and Victor is yet to vindicate himself. The truth is, Nigerians cannot possibly say they are shocked by his act (if he was guilty) because it is deemed the way of life in this part of the world. If you go to any standard club or academy in Nigeria, they have their real age and a dynamic football change. I have been fortunate to play football in different academies – one at Lagos, the other at Port Harcourt – , and age fixing is really the order of the day; in fact, most sports in Nigeria have their representatives with fake ages and documents. A person familiar with football competitions and scout grounds in Nigeria would agree with me that big sponsors like Shell, Glo, Airtel, and others bring forth opportunities for Nigerian youngsters to showcase their skills in the field of play once in a year. Good opportunity it is but disturbing is the fact that persons of 23 years would claim to be U-15 just to get caps or appearances in that tournament. You may blame the player, but I rather put more blames on the body in charge of football management in Nigeria – reasons would soon be on display. Age fixing is a fundamental problem, my temporary shut doors for not playing for SHARKS FC was because I was considered rather short or small hence my age had to be reduced and computed in a system – I was in no time training in an academy as a 14 year old boy against my original 19. Let us air it here and clear, Nigerian footballers are drunk with the passion of playing football overseas but majority cannot raise the required funds – in my own case, it was a hint of five hundred thousand naira just for the trip. It is due to the difficulty of signing clubs even in the Nigerian Professional Football League that makes these players remain on low cuts, bogus jersey, and resort to playing competitions meant for their younger brothers or unborn children. So who gets the blame?
The NFF is no saint on this matter. It is very appalling that for a player with the skill and passion for the game to be selected in the 23 man list for a tournament, he would have to buy his way into it. I do not speak for other countries, I do not know if this overwhelming corruption has hit the globe, but it is from an affected point of view that I draft. The issue of skyrocketing age is founded on the belief that at age 15 you cannot go for top competitions reserved for U-15 category; the coaches of most academies believe that you need to age more than that category to obtain experience – first mistake from coaches, one reason for tendering fake documents. One other area is the government’s non-involvement in the dreams of these future stars. We only stand a distance and admire the way foreign countries raise youngsters, while our government decides to hands off that scope of its bailiwick. All the body does is to fetch established players to fill in for tournaments even when not home-based – the con of this is that hope begins to run far from the youngsters who watch their efforts to play certain cups in the rightful age fade, hence the rise of concocted papers to remain in the race. Now blame players for their ignorance and foolhardiness. Nigerian players who swell their age in a bid to conquer their opponents at smaller categories most times gas out when they get to the senior team. The reason is short, they played their best football against their juniors bamboozling FIFA or other relevant body, and were deprived strength to play pro when the world wanted to appreciate their brilliance – they forget that they cannot cheat nature. We can count players that reduced their age and have become flops, their self deception made them enter soar remembrances… it is as a result of reducing age that Nigeria under performs in the FIFA WORLD CUP as their strength has experienced diminishing returns. See the wowing statistics: Peter Odemwingie broke the curse of win drought when he scored a controversial goal against Bosnia in the 2014 world cup – the last time we won a match being 1998. I called it a curse, but that is not the word; the problem is the wearing off of players who are 44 but claiming 24 – no argument, I know better.
A repair of this ignominy that has been with us is IF NOT UTOPIAN as it is probably not feasible to stop the 1 million culprits of age fixing bread and buttered in our soil. Well a solution should not be muted having come this far. The area of players looking small are simply because of wrong dieting, and for a change to be, the academies should try balancing the eating cycle cos the need for protein and fruits are very essential to the body. The intake of fluids which contains carbohydrates is readily advised as it helps to refuelling the muscles plus electrolytes which are vital in aiding the body absorb and retain fluid for hydration – a proper diet builds the player all round. Another area is the opening of windows and support by the government as these youngsters need to go out to explore. Football is a game which is for time and season, so if we must see the rise of the Giants then the government needs to work on providing the up to date training facility, programme, and hunts. There is a need to pay players salary in the NPFL and better the league; it is the failure of the NFF in this regard that sees many local based stars flee to Kuwait, Madagascar, and so on to start football afresh with a new age. There is need to build our fence as it is not merely broken but missing. I see hope in Nigeria, and I pray the government sees same. Let us use the raw talents we have for the Nation’s own good, let us stop fooling ourselves before the world.