A report by the Switzerland-based Football Observatory has traced the usual under performance by many African senior teams to massive cheatings carried out at their youth levels. The CIES report listed Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon as countries that have yet to hit full potential with their A-teams as a result of wrong foundations set with the youth teams.
The report stated that despite fielding the youngest players in 2015, the Super Eagles, Black Stars and the Indomitable Lions have continued to struggle due to age cheating.
Even though several debates have been made concerning the true ages of players in some teams, the January 2016 report, which is the most current of the CIES monthly research work, casts doubt on the official ages registered by African footballers which it claims is responsible for the untapped potential of African teams in senior football.
The report published on January 12 listed Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon as teams that fielded the youngest players among 50 sampled A national teams in 2015. The table had 24.7, 25.1 and 25.3 years respectively for the three teams.
The report read in part, “Important differences were observed according to country. The highest average age on the pitch was measured for Scotland: 29.0 years of age. Despite the experience of players fielded, the Scots did not manage to qualify for the final phase of the European championships. It is no doubt timely to carry out an in-depth analysis to understand the reasons for multiple failures over the past decades.
“At the other end of the scale, three African teams fielded the youngest players on average: Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. However, this result must be analysed carefully insofar as footballers born in Africa tend to be older than they claim to be. Lying about one’s age is a common practice that implies a competitive advantage in youth categories. However, in the long term, this strategy is counterproductive as it does not provide optimum conditions for the full development of talent. This is one of the reasons for which the real potential of African squads remains untapped.
“If we exclude African teams, the countries having fielded the youngest players are the Netherlands and England, with an average of 25.6 years of age. In the first case, the bias towards youth has not been a success as the Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016. For the English, on the other hand, the results have been more positive.”