Former Super Eagles (then Green Eagles) star Adokiye Amiesimaka has suggested the use of ‘school records’ of players as the lasting solution to the lingering practice of age-cheating in Nigerian football.
‘Chief Justice of Nigerian football’ as he is fondly called, made this suggestion during a visit to the Neigbhourhood Football Academy in Port Harcourt where he mentored youngsters participating at the developmental program for upcoming footballers.
Earlier this week, 15 out of 40 members of Nigeria’s U-17 football team, the Golden Eaglets reportedly failed the mandatory MRI scan age test ahead of the regional U-17 AFCON qualifiers in Niger Republic next month. It was also a similar situation two years ago when almost the entire squad was wiped out as tests revealed that over 22 players were actually older than 17 years, resulting in Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the cadet championship which was staged in Rwanda.
Asked what could be done to probably eliminate age-cheating in youth teams in the country, the 1980 AFCON winner said: “Simple! Don’t even bother about birth certificates, forget about age declaration. Use school records.
“We know that ordinarily, by the time you are 10, 11, 12, you likely get into secondary school by our education system. You know there may be exceptions – some may get in earlier, but the greater majority between 10 and 12 they get into secondary school.
“Let’s talk about under17 for instance, for a player to qualify for under17, and you know education up to secondary school level is compulsory, for a player to get up to play under17, then, he must either still be in secondary school or just left secondary school. We can use that; we can use that as a yardstick.
“Ask, so far, how many of our under17 representatives would you say was in secondary school at the time they played for us?
“Forget about age declaration which can be falsified, forget about even birth certificates. Just use the school system. Say okay, ‘when did you get to the secondary school?’ Look at the records. You are in; they call it JS1, JS1 this year, JS2 (next year). You can follow up. That’s a smart way to check it (age-cheating).”
However, the former Attorney-general and Commissioner for Justice in Rivers State is doubtful that football administrators in the country will adopt the solution to age-cheating he proffered.
“But you see our administrators don’t do that. Because if they did that, they won’t be able to bring in 30-year old professional players in professional clubs – well-shaven professional players to play (under17), which is wrong.”
Amiesimaka is a vocal advocate of doing things the right way. In 2009, he famously exposed then Golden Eaglets captain Chukwudi Fortune – a player he claimed was captain of the Sharks youth team in 2002 as an 18-year old.