May 5, 2011 — African football living legend, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, two years ago, admitted that most Nigerian footballers fabricate their age, and that some are reluctant to retire early in order to justify their claim.
He made the confession on the pre-recorded Teju Babyface Show on Tuesday May 3, 2011 after the host (Teju) placed him under oath with a “Comedy Bible,” and asked the much-anticipated question.
When asked if Nigerian players lie about their age, “Jay Jay” wanted to know if foreigners were in the live audience. He confirmed the suspicion when he was told there was no foreigner in the audience.
“Yes… yes… while some of us retire at 28, others play on at 24 in order to justify their (false) age,” he said. He added that some Nigerian players were actually 10 years older than they claim.
The football icon seemed to be oblivious of the fact that the show was going to be dumped into the public domain.
His confession has confirmed the suspicions of many Nigerians that most of their footballers fix their age.
Some, however, opine that players are free to choose a “football age” at the beginning of their soccer career, an opinion not supported by the rules of the world football governing body (FIFA).
In 2009, most of the Nigerian U-17 team players, including the skipper Fortune Chukwudi (who allegedly claimed to be 18 in 2002), were accused of cheating on their age, an allegation they could not refute beyond every reasonable doubt. Some of them failed the age test and, so, were excluded from the team which lost the gold on home soil to Switzerland the same year.
The nation could not believe her senses when prolific Nigerian forward Juilius Aghahowa took his heart throb to the altar in 2001 at 19. Rumours suggested he had to wed because he was ageing. Aghahowa had played for the Nigerian Police football team before breaking into the U-20 team and later, into the Super Eagles.
He later made a move to Wigan Athletic where he quickly fell out of favour with the manager and was declared surplus to requirement. We have no clue to what the manger discovered.
The poor performance of the Super Eagles at South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup was attributed by some to the fielding of ageing players. One only need watch the eagles play to believe this claim.
Okocha’s revelation has confirmed the suspicions of most Nigerians that their soccer stars are age cheats.