“Só mo age mi” a Yoruba statement which means Do you know my age? A phrase made popular by Nigerian Comedian Jigan Babaoja. Also a popular question that’s asked when an older person what’s to prove a point.
It was just like yesterday, I remember playing football with friends and acquaintances on the streets of Lagos( usually in someone’s compound on actually on the street), we used stones or slippers/footwear to demarcate where the goalpost was. We mostly played till it was late and we couldn’t see again or till many people left making it impossible to play a truly competitive game, before I realised I was a defender I did score a number of goals and I was certainly being a footballer was a reasonable path for me. Well, it wasn’t long till I entered secondary school and I realised I wasn’t that good, perhaps a local champion. Also, it didn’t just make sense again to play football under the sun or in the rain, too stressful or not worth it. My interest had dwindled. During my peak period (in primary school) I clinched one of the awards I’m still most proud of after a competitive game. It says best in sports, sports was actually just Football.
Football has always been the default representation of sports in Nigeria and many African countries, it usually gets priority over other sports. I’m not sure why but a sport as popular as that makes people do anything to get involved even altering their age. The pressure for success, individual ambition and ease in falsifying age are factors that cause this.
It is not rare to find people with more than one birth certificate
Junior Binyam, CAF media director
Football age, the age a footballer poses to be, usually a few years younger than his actual age. More formally known as Age Fraud or Age Fabrication.
Age fraud is a term for age fabrication or the use of false documentation to gain an advantage over opponents. In football, it is common amongst players belonging to nations where records are not easily verifiable. The media often refer to the player with false documentation as an “age-cheat”.
There are several reasons why players choose to use false documentation. In countries that could be considered poor, European scouts are looking for young talented players to sign for a European club. The players know that there is a lesser chance of being signed if they are, for example, 23 years old as opposed to 17 years old as there would be less time for the club to develop the player.
We see all the time, we laugh when the Nigerian National team was called the youngest at the world cup because we know it isn’t true.
I have an acquaintance who’s in Europe playing for one of the lower division teams, he’s a few years older than me but he shaved off about 6 years away from his age just to fit into the youth academy, looking at his Instagram page he looks the age he claims to be, he was the highest goal scorer last season.
Presently, there is no known foolproof, scientific test that will allow doctors — or sports regulators — to determine an individual’s age.
How do you convince anyone that a person’s age isn’t real when all official documents say otherwise and even his parents – I mean his mother that gave birth to him says so and friends and family members corroborate the story. Science hasn’t caught up yet. A year’s salary can change your life forever — oh well nobody plans to play for just a year but then that’s enough motivation.
The Switzerland-based Football Observatory described African senior national teams as perpetual under-achievers on account of age cheating at youth championships, insisting that the strategy was counter-productive as it does not provide optimum conditions for harnessing football talents in the continent.
All African teams are out of the world cup with Senegal’s departure being the most painful, Out on the basis of getting more Yellow Card surely they deserved to make it to the next round but they didn’t. The issue of age fraud isn’t only peculiar to Africans but more prevalent here. I wonder when we’d learn our lesson.
On Old Age & Wisdom
Dr. Ola Brown (Okekunrin) makes a good point in her article, African’s & our obsession with old ‘wise’ men where she talks about the common issue of older people using age as a criterion for being right and leading. While she acknowledges the fact that there are old people who are wise(r) and competent, She quickly quips in that age isn’t everything. Stating that “Many times experts fail, because they’re experts in the past version of the world” and that “Many people who think they have 20 years of experience really don’t. They have one year of experience repeated 20 times (Pfeffer)”
There are instances where young people should lead old people.
The days of elders telling stories by the fireside in the bush are gone. Now we learn and achieve excellence much earlier in life through social media, advanced technical skills, fellowships, civic activity and online education.
The world has moved on from fire side stories to AI, big data & advanced analytics. African leaders and voting citizens must move on also.
Age is just a number!