Kenya Under-17 football coach Rajab Babu on Wednesday alleged rampant age cheating in the ongoing Cecafa Youth Championship in Sudan.
“It was very obvious to us that we were playing older players. It is not hard to tell if a player is over 17 years of age and we saw that at the tournament,” Babu said in Nairobi soon after the team returned from their disastrous outing.
Kenya made a premature exit after losing all their three Group B preliminary matches played in Juba – 3-1 against Zanzibar, 4-1 against Uganda and 1-0 against Ethiopia.
“You cannot match a boy who is 16 years and one who is 25 years. If we were playing with opposition of our age we would have won,” Babu said.
The poor performance by the team has elicited angry reactions from football fans in the country, with many accusing Football Kenya Limited of inept preparation and an inadequate selection process.
Trained for five days
The team only trained for five days before travelling to what turned out to be a slaughter house in Sudan.
But Babu defended the team, saying it was the best Under-17 squad that Kenya could assemble.
“With the exception of two players, this is the same team that played in the Copa Cup in South Africa in June. We gave a good account of ourselves and I can tell you I received several inquiries on my players from interested clubs, which tells you the quality of the team,” Babu said.
The Brazilian- and Dutch-trained coach said Cecafa needed to look at ways to minimise age cheating and help in the development of youth football in the region. Cecafa had Sudan’s original team replaced after the players were found to be overage.
Rife in Africa
FKL football director Patrick Nagi said age cheating was rife in Africa but that it would never happen in Kenya under his watch.
“If we wanted to falsify age we would have done it. But our aim is to develop youth football and not look for immediate results and silverware,” Nagi said, and defended the team selection process: “We have details of our youth players from across the country and can name any age team at a moment’s notice.”
Nagi said the next step would be to establish youth leagues at the branches and in the national leagues.
Under-17 players and school (club in brackets): Ian Otieno (Chavakali High School/HomeBoyz Olympic), Ali Ahmed (St Anthony High, Kitale/Kakamega Youth), Peter Mugambi (Muani Secondary/Opera), Ali Shambi (Tononoka High/Coast United), Robbinson Mwangi (Annointed High/Young Kings), Daniel Mwaura (Good Shepherd School/Mathare Youth), George Ouma (Good Shepherd School/Fisa Academy), Patrick Otieno (Doonlight Academy/Kariobangi Sharks), Reuben Munyao (Silvan Secondary/JMJ Academy), James Okore (Kivaywa Secondary/Webuye Youth), David Kinga’twa (Swanland Academy/Nairobi City Stars), Geoffrey Wanjala (Sikata Primary/Chemwa), Frederick Otieno (Makongeni High/Nairobi City Stars), Charles Bruno (Thurgem High/HomeBoyz Olympic), Wilson Kimani (Namachanja High/Unity), Griffin Muhambi, (Chavakali High/Mumias Academy), Felix Okinyi, (Jagiet Academy/JMJ Academy), Mohamed Feisel (Tetu High/Hidden Talent), Job Tinyo (Moi High, Mosoriot/Raiply), Paul Mburu (Christ College/Pinnacle)