Nigeria may risk a new regime of FIFA ban in the wake of a new revelation by a handle called “Naija_football” which posted a genuinely interesting piece of information.
Nigeria has for so long participated in the dishonesty around players ages in Olympic and cadet tournaments.
As you can see from the image above, a bit of digging work initially piqued by the fact that few of the African players looked far older than their opponents.
Naija_football revealed the not-particularly-well-hidden information that Nigeria’s under-17 captain Victoria Aidelomon is actually more like 26 or 27 years old.
There are no absolute proofs that would come from a scientific verification of the player’s age. However, the combination of factors doesn’t leave many alternative theories outside of ‘lots and lots of typos all combining to say the same thing’.
If the captain of the Nigerian team is innocent proving so would not provide a huge challenge.
A commentary and reaction to this story which broke some 18 hours before it is re-published here revealed that, “For a long time the other end of this spectrum has amused many people, with the like of Kanu (Nwankwo) and Taribo West allegedly having played into their fifties, and I for one remember seeing the date of birth of the Wiki entry for Nwankwo himself change more than once as certain interested parties looked to keep him playing, but this case is different.’
Another commentary said: “In a developing sport, where audiences are fragile and the game lacks the exposure of the top levels there is a risk of corruption, and in this case it could well be destroying the careers of many young Nigerians, let alone their opponents.”
The author of the report claimed: “Of course, the Nigerian FA have been contacted and asked for their take on the matter, although as yet they have not replied, but you rest assured that if we hear from them the story will be updated. For now this just seems like another example of ugly people abusing the beautiful game.”
The track of history:
In 1989 Nigeria's youth national teams were banned by FIFA for fielding over-age players in FIFA-organised youth tournaments. The birth dates of three players at the 1988 Olympics were different than the ones used by those players at previous tournaments.
The resulting ban lasted for two years and Nigeria was also stripped of its right to host the 1991 FIFA Worlf Youth Championship. Ghana also suffered the wrath of FIFA and were also disqualified.
The 1999 FIFA U-17 World championship saw Nigeria beat Japan 9–0, following the game Japan's French manager, Phillipe Troussier quipped that he saw one of Nigeria's U-17 players enter a taxi "with his wife and two children and then driving home" implying that Nigeria had fielded over-age players.
“We use over-age players for junior championships, I know that. Why not say it? It's the truth. We always cheat.
-Anthony Kojo Williams, NFF Chairman, 1999-2000.
In a 2010 BBC World service documentary Africa Kicks he stated that the Nigerian Government were "afraid of change". Kojo Williams said: "I don't see Nigerian football getting out of the quagmire, the problem it is in today is because corruption is getting deeper and deeper and deeper. From time to time we get flashes where we do well in some competition with overage players and we celebrate. That was one of the issues I looked at, we can't keep using overage players.
"We use over-age players for junior championships, I know that. Why not say it? It's the truth. We always cheat. It's a fact. When you cheat, you deprive the young stars that are supposed to play in these competitions their rights."
In 2009, Nigerian former left wing wizard, Adokiye “Chief Justice” Amiesimaka accused the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) of being complicit with age-cheats because it gave the nation a competitive advantage. He had what he considered to be proof that the Nigerian captain, Fortune Chukwudi was overaged but NFF were not interested in taking his complaint seriously.