Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Age is more than just a number

I have always wondered; if indeed age is just a number then why it is such a pain for most people to reveal how old they are? Having been schooled in the old-fashioned way I, for one, takes utmost care on all matters related to age when dealing the womenfolk.
Most ladies have an inborn fetish for youthfulness and from where I come there is an unwritten rule that asking a woman her age is the height of churlishness. It’s simply a no, no!
I must also hasten to add here that one of the missing bit of detail on my Facebook and Twitter accounts is the date of my birth. Not for any reasons other than a deterrent measure for a barrage of unsolicited birthday wishes.
But I digress. My gripe is with the issue of age falsification in sports.
While it’s an accepted fact that ‘age cheating’ is rampant in sports, recent claims that former Nigerian defensive lynchpin Taribo West once ‘slashed’ his age by 12 years in order to join a club in Europe is, for lack of a better word, mind-boggling.
The former president of Serbian club Partizan Belgrade, Zarko Zecevic, last week blew the lid off the can with claims that West lied about his age and that the former Super Eagles centre half was actually 12 years older than the 28 years he claimed to be when he joined the club way back in 2002.

A certain website couldn’t have put it better by saying: ‘If Taribo West is as old as they say he is, then his professional football career is one long achievement in itself.’
Although a rare feat in football, there exist a few players in the mound of Lothar Matthaus, Edwin van der Sar, Jens Lehman, Paulo Maldini, Hossam Hassan and Roger Milla (all legendary in their own rights) who extended their playing careers beyond their 4oth birthdays.
But without a doubt this class of players is a dying breed. Manchester United’s philandering yet ageless winger, Ryan Giggs, is perhaps the last of a lineage of players with an incredible ‘staying power’ (no pun intended).
What makes Zecevic’s claims incredible is that after leaving Partizan in 2004, West played for four more years, turning out for four different clubs, until 2008 when he finally hanged his boot.
That would have made him a 46 years old scoundrel who cheated his way into all age group tournaments that he represented Nigeria in, including the famous 1996 Olympic Games victory in Atlanta, USA.
Of course, and naturally so, West has disproved these claims. This begs the question are all those fabled tales of West African nation’s success in youth development just a sham?
But Kenyan football too is not immune to age cheating and my haunch is that there are many players in the Kenyan Premier League carrying passports with falsified dates of birth.

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