A High Court in Mombasa on Thursday ruled that it was unconstitutional to bar students above 19 years from participating in the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) games.
Some schools had sought legal redress, saying that the rule amounted to discrimination, a move High Court judge Justice Eric Ogola supported by noting that provisions of the Constitution outlaw discrimination in public bodies or institutions.
The ruling, which has left KSSSA in a dilemma, is likely to undermine fair play especially when it comes to talent search and development. This is a major setback to KSSSA, which has been fighting the rampant cases of age-cheating in secondary schools games hence the introduction of stringent rules.
There have been many cases where schools have intentionally retained players for many years even after completing their secondary level education for the sake of upholding their top status in certain sports.
This vice has been widespread especially in soccer and basketball where schools have fielded players as old as 23. This has affected talent development. Emerging talent has easily been killed just because some aged players have refused to pave the way.
Before the KSSA rules were put in place, rugby authorities had imposed similar rules at Impala Floodlit tournaments, where many cases of injuries were often reported when over-age players were allowed to play. It was deemed unfair for players aged 16 coming up against players as old as 23, who had experience with top local rugby leagues. But KSSSA cannot escape blame since it failed to address the issue early enough.
The High Court ruling aside, we must determine as a country what we want as far as secondary schools sports talent development is concerned. We must allow our youngsters to enjoy their youth and realise their full potential in sport with no impediment.