Age cheating distorts beautiful game

It’s been 23 years since Independence and our grass roots football development is still facing setbacks.
We talk of the need to groom our players in a professional manner but many of us have misrepresented the sole purpose of the game.
I’m referring to the latest case of six over-aged players fielded by Hardap region in the recent ‘The Namibian Newspaper Cup’ over the Easter break in Otjiwarongo.
The foundation of football enhancement is generally linked to integrity, sportsmanship and pride but it seems to me that these keys are ill-practised by some careless pioneers.
The under 20 regional tournament is meant to give young players from all corners of this motherland an opportunity to play at an elevated level and at the same time, expose themselves to national youth teams’ selectors, but due to ignorance, some has dishonoured the tournament’s rules.
Since the full details on Hardap players’ ineligibility has not been given, I doubt that they are over by a big age difference, after seeing one of their team’s photo.
And perhaps these players were just a few days older than the age limit of a person born before 1st January 1993.
But my point here is that, whether these players were older by a day or not, breaking any rule is illegal even without looking at the extent of breaking it. T
hanks to their neighbour Karas, who discovered this differences which they eventually protested to the Organising Committee.
The immediate decision saw Hardap declared a loser in the process after picking five points in their group.
As a die-hard supporter of Namibian football, my spirit was troubled when I received this alarming news. I made an attempt to acquire more information on this matter but I was informed all logistics are in the hands of the tournament’s OC.
Age cheating is a kind of dishonesty that is devouring the drive towards improving our game. The players of Hardap that were eligible to play, whose places were taken up by these six players are deprived of their chance to grow and mature through sports.
Did the Hardap management really think that their players who meet the age limit, were not good enough for the tournament or did they just fail to prepare them on time and as a result they took matters into their own hand to avoid an early exit? And the N$20 000 which the winner receives cannot even be the reason to use six over-aged players since as it is not the heftiest of amounts.
After all, this is just a regional team and not a club were the teams struggle to find sufficient funds in order to survive.
Let’s not join North and Central African nations who are among the masters of cheating in sports. In another form of cheating, we are reminded of sprinter and multi-athlete Marion Jones who has in recent years forfeited off all her five Olympic gold medals that she won in the 2000 summer event for consuming a banned performance-enhancing drug and lying to a grand jury investigating the creations.
Imagine Namibia winning the under 17 AFCON youth champs with under 20 players, it will give a bad picture to our country when the news break out...It may as well interfere with the progress and future of the players.
Imagine if this could have happened a few years back when the like of former Kaizer Chiefs’ player Doctor Khumalo came to witness the youngsters during the same tournament! It could have discredited local football.
A team involved in cheating may pull over on the competition and if lady luck is their best friend, they will repeat the same trick. But as we all know, for every type of cheat we hear in life there is always a common result which is that, there will come a day when the lies come back to bite you.
Another example of cheating was in the 2000 Paralympics when Spain’s basketball team took gold in the ‘intellectual disability’ category and thanks to an undercover journalist Carlos Ribagorda, who infiltrated the team.
He discovered that only two members of the 12-man squad had intellectual disabilities.
Due to poor methods of evaluating athletes, no one picked it up as some players have missed the mental deficiency test.
In fact, these players were found to be university graduates. And to make matters even worse, participants in table tennis, track and field, and swimming events were also not disabled.
I’m not sure it gets a lot worse than that.
Cheating in sports is a type of incident that can repel sponsors who are interested in investing into the set-ups. There could be people with little knowledge on our games and have the interest to invest, but due to these types of headlined hiccups, they may as well misinterpret the course.
If we clean our game on and off the field, I’m sure it could attract more sponsors and give hope to the fans and the government, that, we are really fighting to take sport to another level.
We need anti-corruption in sport for investigations against this illegal practise.