When pictures surfaced in the year 2009 of Fortune Chukwudi, the captain of the Nigerian U-17 National team, the defeated finalists in the World Youth Championship, at his secondary school ten years previously, the question of age-cheating in African football was once again raised.
Despite numerous subsequent issues, little has been done in terms of changing general attitudes, the cultural perception of cheating players or the consequences for youth football development.
The fact that the real age of the footballer would, at that time, be, at the very least, 27 years was not only a disgrace to the country but also a disgrace to FIFA’s MRI test that was to screen age cheats in African football.
Sadly, this was no isolated incident. Remember Harry Redknapp’s jibe at Nwankwo Kanu, Jose Mourinho’s recent cheeky comment about Samuel Eto’o’s age, Chancel Mbemba registering four different birthdays/years and the Joseph Minala saga at Lazio. This last anecdote took on an almost farcical nature, with some claiming the player was actually 25 years older than his stated age of 17.
Tackling the epidemic of age cheating among African footballers goes beyond effective MRI testing and the non-inclusion of over-aged footballers in national or club setups.
Rather, the drastic overhaul of both cultural and football setups is needed if ever this problem is to be solved.
Much has being said about the win-at-all cost mentality, where both coaches and players at youth level are pressured into selecting personnel for victory alone, rather than for the purpose of player development.
John Obuh, for example, famously dropped Sammy Ameobi because he was not mature enough, despite the fact that he was probably the only eligible player in the camp at the time.
Another leading cause is the high unemployment rate in the region, more people turned out for a federal government recruitment job exercise last week than would have turned up for any national team match, resulting in a stampede that killed several youths.
These kind of environments makes aspiring players consider football as their only source of livelihood.
The solution is to havea long term sincere, approach to improving youth football. One such answer could be the provision of immense funds towards youth programmes such as academies across the continent. Ownership should be maintained by federal governments and designated coaching roles should be given to qualified coaches who would dedicate their time to coaching and developing players in schools, nurturing them over a well-structured developmental plan from maybe 13- 21 while also giving them opportunity to develop by selecting them for national youth teams.
It is definitely no coincidence that the current Spanish national team are made up of players that have represented the country at age grade competitions. Xavi, for example, was even discovered in Terrassa before his teen years and was admitted into Spain’s academy for the gifted before he even joined Barcelona’s setup. Remarkably, the starting XI for the last European Championships Final had amassed 332 youth appearances between them. La Roja provide nations across the world, especially those with resources as vast as Nigeria, with a perfect template to emulate.
Such a system can be adopted for especially talented children on African streets while simultaneously creating jobs for the overage footballers by employing them and training them in a coaching or a medical capacity to help the system develop. Funds could be generated from clubs that end up acquiring the footballers as well as from numerous potential sponsors and multinationals in the continent.
Article by: IYANU ONI-ORISAN
Rwanda’s U-20 team has qualified to the second round of the 2015 Africa Youth Championships after the withdrawal of South Sudan, according to the Confederation of African Football.
In a statement to the Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa), Shereen Arafa, Director of CAF’s competitions department said, “We regret to inform you the withdrawal of South Sudan from the qualifying round of the Africa Youth Championships which will be held in Senegal.”
“This is to inform you that Rwanda has qualified to the next round of the competition,” added Arafa.
Richard Tardy’s team, which entered camp yesterday, is scheduled to face Burundi tomorrow in a friendly match. With Rwanda already qualified to the next round, Burundi will use the game to prepare for their tie against Djibouti.
Valencia academy trio of midfielder Anderson Neza, right back Yves Rwigema and striker Fiston Nkizingabo arrived in the country yesterday, while Pacifique Shema, who features for French third division side US Orléans and Arsenal academy midfielder Alfred Mugabo are expected to arrive today.
Rwanda will face Gabon in the second round in May where the winner will take on the victor between Sierra Leone/Guinea and Ghana in the final qualifying round.
Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, DR Congo, South Africa and Zambia all got byes into the second round.
Ghana’s Asante Kotoko would participate in the 76th edition of the Blue Stars/Fifa Youth Cup Tournament in Zurich Switzerland. The tournament which involves best youth clubs in the world comes off between the 28th and 29th of May 2014.
In an interview with the Overseas manager of Fresh Talents Sports management(FTSM), the company which secured the deal for Asante Kotoko, Mr. Yao Kpodoh, the tournament is aimed at promoting youth football and it currently attracts teams from all over the world, including Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Mexico and Spain.
Ghana’s participation he noted would further promote youth football in Ghana and expects a successful participation of Asante Kotoko and hope they win the tournament.
“The CEO of FTSM, Mr. Kenneth Kwame Asante is currently in touch with Mr. Opoku-Nti the general manager of Asante Kotoko so as they prepare for this important tournament “Mr. Kpodoh
On his part, the Chairman of FTSM, Mr. Jeffries Quaye, is assuring Ghanaians of his company’s readiness in making this tournament the best so far .According to him, they are mobilizing great support for Asante Kotoko and the whole Ghanaian community both far and near Zurich will be there to support them to victory.
Founded in 1939 by FC Blue Stars, Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup is an international youth club football tournament. The Zurich based club was one of the first to have a separate youth section. This youth section expanded to include a tournament involving the best youth teams in the world. Recognizing its importance to youth football, FIFA took over the tournament in 1991.
Football stars like Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, George Best, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and many more started their famous career through this tournament.
In 2011 Black Stars left winger Christian Atsu with FC Porto won the Golden ball as the best player of the tournament. This is the grounds where stars are born and Asante Kotoko Youth team is getting ready to stamp the club’s name in Fifa`s book of this prestigious tournaments.
Cape Coast Ebusua Dwarfs was the first Ghanaian team to participate in this tournament followed by Abedi Pele’s Nania FC
Some of the Participating Clubs this year are 2014:
Benfica Lisbon –Portugal
Atletico Parannaense – Brazil
FC Zurich – Switzerland
FC Sion – Switzerland
Asante Kotoko SC – Ghana
FC Bayern Munchen – Germany
Villareal CP – Spain
Grasshopper Club – Switzerland
FC Blue Stars – Switzerland
Olypiacos Piraeus – Greece
Sources close to former Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni have rubbished reports claiming the veteran coach has signed a contract with 2014 World Cup finalists Ivory Coast.
A report in prestigious sports daily ‘Gazzetta Dello Sport’ claimed the veteran coach has just signed a four-year contract with Ivory Coast, which would initially involve working with youth team players but which could see him take over the senior national team after this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
Furthermore, it also suggested that the 75 year old Italian trainer’s right hand man in the Ireland set-up,Marco Tardelli, would also be working as his number two with the African team.
The Gazzetta report stressed his appointment would have no impact on the current Ivory Coast coach, Sabri Lamouchi. Ivory Coast are are grouped with Colombia, Greece and Japan in the first round of this summer’s World Cup.
A source close to him admitted to the Irish times that whilst it is true that Trapattoni met with the Italian Honorary Consul to the Ivory Coast in Milan this week, no deal had been concluded.
Furthermore, the consul, Fabrizio Iseni, was in no way delegated to ‘negotiate” on behalf of the Ivory Coast Football Federation.
Although it appears that some sort of tentative negotiations had been opened with Trapattoni, his advisors this evening categorically ruled out any future negotiations or deal with the Ivory Coast.
Uruguay inflicted its latest defeat on Africa when they were bundled Nigeria out of the Fifa Under-20 World Championship in Turkey with a 2-1 win over the Flying Eagles on Tuesday.
The West Africans once again failed to end the South American hoodoo hovering over their heads in the Fifa Under-20 World Cup as Nicolas Lopez’s spot kick inside the last 10 minutes put them to the sword.
The defeat will be painful for African as the South American side have once again succeeded in eliminating an African country from a football tournament after booting Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
There was not much to choose from both teams with an even play in the first half though Nigeria had the better scoring opportunities.
Inside the opening 20 minutes, Aminu Umar’s cross provided Olarenwaju Kayode with the best chance of the half from just six yards out from Uruguay’s goal but he could not connect.
Within a minute, Gino Acevedo ghosted past two of his Nigerian markers into the goal area but blazed the ball wide off target.
Seven minutes before the break, Abdullahi Shehu’s long cross from the right channel was met by Umar’s half volley which Uruguay goalkeeper, Guillermo De Amores palmed away before Jim Varela cleared.
And just four minutes to half time, Nigeria were reduced to 10 men when Shehu was shown a straight red card by Serbian referee, Milorad Mazic, for a two-footed tackle on Diego Laxalt.
Shehu had just received a yellow card a minute earlier as the half petered away with little talking point.
Five minutes into the restart, Kayode’s looping effort was deflected off target.
Uruguay then went close to taking the lead when Laxalt’s volley could only be palmed away by Samuel Okani in Nigeria’s goal.
The skilful Giorgian De Arrascaeta later stung Okani’s palms from range via a free kick.
Nigeria defence was left in sixes and sevens including Okani as Lopez tapped home De Arrascaeta’s deflected dead-ball for the opening goal from close range into an empty goal in the 65th minute.
Kayode then produced a solo finish four minutes later after running all alone before shooting from 25 yards past De Amores to put Nigeria level.
The game sparked into life as Michael Olaitan almost made it 2-1 to Nigeria four minutes later after his effort missed target by inches.
But Wilfred Ndidi fouled Diego Rolan, who dribbled past an onrushing Okani with seven minutes left and Lopez coolly scored to restore the South Americans’ lead again.
In added time, Nigerian defenders, Ndidi and Kingsley Madu, came close to making score 2-2.
Uruguay will now face Spain in the quarterfinals as the South American jinx continue to haunt the Nigerian under-20s.
Nigeria will take on Uruguay in a FIFA U20 World Cup Round of 16 match on Tuesday night in Istanbul.
Uruguay finished second in Group F on six points after they smashed four unreplied goals past erstwhile group leaders Uzbekistan in their final group game on Saturday in Antalya.
Croatia won the group to avoid a second straight clash with Nigeria when they defeated New Zealand 2-1 in Bursa.
The Flying Eagles defeated the Croats 4-2 at Colombia 2011.
The winners of the match-up between Nigeria and Uruguay will advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
The South Americans started their campaign at Turkey 2013 on a losing note when they fell 1-0 to Croatia.
They then rallied back to beat New Zealand 2-0 before their convincing win over the Uzbeks on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Flying Eagles resumed training Saturday morning after a day off on Friday.
They will also train on Sunday night ahead of the match against Uruguay.
Kick-off for the match is 9pm local time, which is 7pm Nigerian time.
Goalkeeper Samuel Okani has declared Nigeria are capable of winning the U20 World Cup in Turkey after they reached the Round of 16.
The 19-year-old Enyimba goalkeeper was excited to have kept a clean sheet against Korea Republic in a last group match on Thursday.
“After winning today (Thursday), we could be contenders for the trophy,” said Okani.
“I’m really happy we’ve made the next round, and I kept a second clean sheet in a row.”
He appeared bewildered by the attention focused on him, remaining true to his innate modesty and even appearing a little timid. He had no reason to be, because although he is the shortest goalkeeper at the tournament, he has laid down impressive credentials so far.
“I’ve always played in goal, and right from the start I only ever wanted to play between the sticks, even as a little boy,” he told FIFA.com
He is motivated by the desire to emulate his biggest idol.
“I’m amazed by Iker Casillas,” he freely admitted.
Obuh regards Okani as one of the cornerstones of his team, the kind of player he rates as irreplaceable.
“Chukwunenye is a terrific lad and he was top class again today,” the Nigerian coach said to FIFA.com, “My players look up to him.”
The 53-year-old almost certainly didn’t realise the delicious irony in his choice of phrase.
“What makes him special is his extraordinary leaping ability, and his skill and composure with the ball at his feet.”
Mali crashed out of the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup when they were beaten 4-1 by Mexico in their final Group D match in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Friday evening.
The result saw the African side finish bottom of the group and suffer elimination, while Mexico could still qualify for the quarterfinals as one of the best four third-placed sides in the first phase.
Mali got off to the worst possible start when goalkeeper Germain Berthe attempted a second-minute clearance that travelled straight to Marco Bueno. The Mexican attacker controlled the ball with his right foot, before shooting into an unguarded net with his left to make it 1-0.
Just over ten minutes later Mexico doubled their advantage, with ‘keeper Berthe once again at fault. From a free kick he allowed the diminutive Jesus Corona to place a looping header into the back of the net.
Mali, despite finding themselves 2-0 down, actually dominated possession for most of the first half, but their attack lacked a cutting edge and El Tri goalkeeper Richard Sanchez was rarely called into action.
Coach Moussa Keita opted for a bold double change just after the half hour mark, withdrawing Hamidou Traore and Ousmane Keita for Souleymane Sissoko and Ichaka Diarra respectively.
However, the substitutions made little difference initially and the half ended with Mexico two goals up and Mali headed for the exit door. The West Africans then made their third and final change at the restart, with striker Adama Traore coming off the bench.
And they very nearly made it 2-2 in the 69th minute, only for Traore to have his effort cleared off the line by a combination of the goalkeeper and a defender when it seemed inevitable that he would score.
Mexico then stunned Mali on a counter attack in the 70th minute, with Jesus Escoboza firing a low, left-footed shot past the goalkeeper to make it 3-1 and effectively end the match as a contest.
Ghana could miraculously make it to the knock-out stage of the 2013 FIFA U20 World Cup if they beat USA on Thursday and hope other results go their way.
The Black Satellites can finish as one of the best four third-placed finishers if they accrue three points at the Kadir Has Stadium.
But USA hold the aces after equalising late on in their 1-1 draw with France to move third on the table with one point.
Ghana have a mathematical chance and the coaches are determined to avoid a humiliating exit from the tournament.
The 2009 world champions made a false start after losing 3-1 to France in Istanbul.
Satellites coach Sellas Tetteh is likely to ring changes in his starting line-up again as he searches for his first win.
There are no injuries and suspensions for the former Rwanda national team coach who has faint hopes of his side going through.
Ghana failed to qualify to last edition of the FIFA U20 World Cup in Colombia two years which was won by Brazil.
Nigeria will go for broke in Thursday’s final U20 World Cup Group B match against South Korea for automatic passage to the round of 16.
The Flying Eagles are third in the standings with three points from two matches with Korea second on four points.
Portugal are top also on four points but are widely expected to crush bottom team Cuba to go through.
So, it is really a battle for second place between Nigeria and Korea.
“We have to beat South Korea on Thursday,” declared Nigeria U20 assistant coach Jurgen Press.
“We don’t want to subject ourselves to the lottery of finishing as one of the four third best teams going into the next round.”
Second place in Group B will also ensure the Flying Eagles stay put in Istanbul to take on the runners-up of Group F, which has Uzbekistan, Croatia, Uruguay and New Zealand.
The Flying Eagles have detailed information about their Thursday’s opponents having watched them at the recent Toulon Tournament as well as at their first two games here in Turkey.
The entire stayed back to watch the first half of Monday’s pulsating 2-2 draw between Korea and Portugal in Kayseri.
They are a very organised team, have great stamina and are mentally strong.
Korea are the most consistent team from Asia at the U20 World Cup as this is their 13th appearance in the competition and they have qualified for the last six editions.
Their best result in this tournament was achieved 30 years ago in Mexico when they reached the semi-finals before they were edged out by eventual champions Brazil 2-1.
The class of 2012 won the Asian U19 championship courtesy of a win after a penalty shootout against Iraq. The last time the country won this competition was in 2004.
They barely scraped a 2-1 win over Cuba in their opening game in Turkey, but stepped up their game against two-time champions Portugal in their next game to earn a draw.
Nigeria defence will therefore face a major test as they will come face-to-face with a well-oiled attack led by Hyun Kim and Seungwoo Ryu.
Both Kim and Ryu were on target in the surprise draw with Portugal and will again fancy their chances against the six-time African champions.
Kick-off time is 5pm local time, which is 3pm Nigeria time.