JOHANNESBURG — South African legend Mark Fish has decried age cheating in football which he says is Africa’s biggest problem.
The former Bolton Wanderers defender, capped 62 times by South Africa, said football on the continent had failed to realise its potential because of rampant age cheating.
“Age cheating in African football is a big problem,” Fish told the Lesotho Times last week on the sidelines of the FIFA Southern Africa Media Day in Johannesburg.
Africa has performed well in junior football but failed to make an impact at senior level.
Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana have excelled in junior world football competitions.
But the best Africa has achieved in the World Cup is when Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana reached the quarterfinals.
As South Africa prepares to host next year’s World Cup, Fish said Africa’s football authorities ought to stamp out age cheating in order to improve standards.
“Respective federations must take a firm step on this issue of age cheating if they want to improve the standard of football (in Africa),” he said.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke also voiced his concerns about age cheating in Africa.
“It’s true that players are older than what they say, probably here in Africa,” Valcke said.
“We are cheating ourselves and this is just a waste of resources on development programmes.”
Meanwhile, Fish has called on Africa’s ex-football stars to work together to make sure next year’s World Cup is a success story for the entire continent.
Fish, 35, said former players with European experience could help Africa prepare for the mundial.
“We must work hard as ex-players to showcase what we can offer to the world during and after the two events,” he said.
“We must take this to a bigger picture and show the world that we are not a Third World but a continent that can stand the test of time.”
Fish urged ex-players to help the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2010 World Cup and next month’s Confederations Cup, also in South Africa, with ideas to make the two events successful.
“Ex-players, come back and make a difference,” he said.
“We have European football experience that can be used to improve our local football.
“We must also make recommendations to the LOC for the betterment of African football,” he said.