African teams may have enjoyed great success in under-age football in the past, however, the success has never been replicated with their senior national teams at the highest level of football.
The fact is that they encourage cheating at the early part of their game.
Despite fielding the youngest players in A national teams in 2015, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon continue to remain underachievers due to endemic age cheating, a CIES report has stated.
In its January 2016 report, the Swiss-based Football Observatory cast doubt on the declared ages of African footballers which it claims is responsible for the untapped potential of African teams in senior football.
Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon are listed as having fielded the youngest players among 50 sampled A national teams in 2015 – 24.7, 25.1 and 25.3 years respectively.
“However, this result must be analyzed carefully insofar as footballers born in Africa tend to be older than they claim to be,” stated the report.
With the immense talent on the continent, only three teams – Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon – have ever reached the quarter finals of the World Cup.
However, both Nigeria and Ghana have regularly won world titles at youth levels, with Nigeria winning a record fifth Under-17 world title last October.
“Lying about one’s age is a common practice that implies a competitive advantage in youth categories,” said the report.
“However, in the long-term, this strategy is counterproductive as it does not provide optimum conditions for the full development of talent.
“This is one of the reasons for which the real potential of African squads remains untapped” the report highlighted.