The Ministry of Sports and Culture, in collaboration with Rwanda National ID Project, early this year introduced a system to curb down on over-age players featuring in the national young soccer teams aged between 17 to 20 years respectively.
Today, whenever a youth player receives national team call-up, his age has to be screened by use of computerized archives in the office of emigration/immigration department also charged with citizen registration tasks.
This initiative is very good because it gives the head coach of the national youth sides a chance to select players of the required age category.
Age restriction system done by the Ministry of Sports and Culture has already helped omit some over-age players that had sneaked into under-20 camp early this year. Over five players were sent home from the national youth soccer camp as they were preparing for the under-20 African championship qualifiers.
This new system is important because it will help improve the quality of national team players summoned at the national level unlike in the past years where selection was based on size and performance of the player at club level or local football leagues.
The idea that many soccer players in Rwanda manipulate age, valid or not valid is nearly a constant presence in the whole of African football.
The Sports Ministry through cooperation with Rwanda football association (FERWAFA) should work out a plan to tighten up age cheating restrictions in locally organized youth soccer tournaments like Copa Coca Cola and the upcoming Airtel youth soccer event.
Though the Ministry started off with the national team restrictions, a lot has to be done at the grassroots.
For instance, in the 2013 Copa Coca Cola youth championship which ends today, based on fan’s claims over 60 percent of top-performing teams in the tournament fielded over-age players.
Though Ruhango and Nyanza teams were culprits on grounds of age cheating, more teams would have been disqualified if stringent measures were put in place earlier.
The preliminary rounds of the Copa Coca Cola under-17 started in Muhanga district of Southern province, and attracted 60 teams from various parts of the country.
Reliable sources revealed to Sunday sport that even during the qualification phase at district level, age cheating was at the highest peak because every team wanted to force qualification and possibly get chance to pocket 500,000 FRW offered to the tournament’s champion.
The same story applies to the upcoming Airtel youth soccer tournament for under 15 years age category organized by FERWAFA in cooperation with sponsors Airtel. The event is set to kick-start on June1.
Many teams that qualified to take part in this tournament have been reported to have over-age players. FERWAFA is aware of this rampant act and they are ready to take action come the start of the event.
Like Copa Coca Cola, the Airtel tournament is sponsored by Airtel in all countries where the company works from. This tournament will attract players under the age category of 15 years from various soccer development centers in the country.
Age cheating provides false team selection at club level and national teams. An over-age player can be selected through under-20, under-23 ranks but cannot reach the expected retirement age of 30 years plus in good shape.
Normally by the time a player is approaching his 30’s, he is expected to perform at his highest peak. But age cheating has made players retire prematurely.