warning to age cheats

Linda Moreotsene

Linda Moreotsene

Augustine Makalakalane, the national women's football team coach, has warned those who might think of indulging in age-cheating that they will not get away with this practice.

Makalakalane, who attended a national Under-15 and Under-17 schools tournament last month in KwaZulu-Natal, told Sowetan that the host province attempted to pass a 20-year-old national team player off as an Under-17 player.

"Unfortunately for them, the player, Zandile Ndlovu, is known to us. Their explanation, which, by the way, did not impress us, was that the player needed game-time. The result was that the tournament ended up a sham because of this," said Makalakalane.

An opportunity for a legitimate player to be spotted was missed, he said. Also, the final between the hosts and Eastern Cape did not happen because the documents Eastern Cape demanded from KZN were not forthcoming, resulting in Eastern Cape winning the title in a walkover.

"This kind of thing should not be allowed to gain a foothold in women's soccer," Makalakalane said, especially as it was always a struggle for him to get players for the national team.

Safa national women's football director Fran Hilton- Smith also expressed her disappointment, and warned that this practice will be stamped out.

"The way I see it, there is no possibility that this will spread. In women's football, unlike in men's, we are a much closer unit. We know the players because we move around, and are not prepared to see our good name and image being tarnished. Besides, we have people who have been in women's football for years who can spot an age cheat from miles," Hilton-Smith said.

Safa spokesman Morio Sanyane said there was nothing much the organisation could do about the situation, unless the schools body and the organisers of the tournament lodged a formal complaint with Safa.

"We will then follow the necessary disciplinary process. Right now, it is quite unfortunate that instead of giving the right kids a chance, people would rather indulge in things like these," Sanyane said.

To combat this sort of practice in future, Safa will be introducing a database to track players. All players will be registered on the database as early as possible and this information will be distributed among all Safa regions.

"Say, for instance, a player registers at six years old in Tshwane. This player is allocated a number that he will be identified by, wherever he surfaces, throughout his playing career.

"It will be a comprehensive, competent system that will not only focus on players, but on referees, coaches and so on," he said.

Sanyane acknowledged that people involved with players often encouraged them to cheat.