Football – It’s A Funny Old Game!
While Manchester United have dismissed rumours over the probity of new signing Radamel Falcao’s actual age, speculation about footballers’ date of births is an age-old problem.
We take a look at some other players who’ve been embroiled in similar controversies.
Jose Mourinho sparked controversy last-season with a seemingly throwaway line hinting that his Cameroonian striker was actually 35, rather than his official age of 32. Eto’o retaliated brilliantly, celebrating a subsequent goal by hobbling to the corner flag and holding his back like an elderly man.
Others were equally dismissive of Mourinho’s claims he was 35 – with a former lover of the striker alleging he was in fact 39.
While many 17-year-olds obtain fake ID to get into nightclubs, Joseph Minala suffered from the opposite problem. Lazio threatened legal action last season after claims surfaced that their 17-year-old midfielder was, incredibly, 41.
An African website claimed the player told them he was in his early 40s, which would obviously make him ineligible for the Rome club’s youth teams. While the Cameroonian undoubtedly looks older than his teenage years, those close to the player insist he has had a tough upbringing and is like a 17-year-old in every way.
Former Nigerian defender Taribo West faced accusations throughout his career about falsifying his actual age. His journeyman career included a two-year stint at Partizan Belgrade, where their president Zarko Zecevic claimed the player was twelve years older than his official age. West was part of Nigeria’s 1996 Olympic gold-medal winning team, several of whom have also been accused of being older than officially stated.
One of these is former Arsenal striker Nwankwo Kanu. About the striker who scored an FA Cup final winner for him in 2008, former Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp quipped that Kanu was “a 49-year-old” rather than his stated age of 33. Either way, despite his age, Kanu enjoyed a tremendously successful career – winning the Champions League, Olympic gold, the Premier League, three FA Cups and much more.
Sir Alf Ramsey
While age falsification is seemingly rife in Africa, where records are not easily verifiable, there have been allegations closer to home. England’s World Cup-winning manager faced claims by biographer Dave Bowler that he forged documents so that his date of birth changed to 1922 rather than 1920. According to Bowler’s allegations, Ramsey feared he’d be too old to obtain a professional contract by the end of World War 2.
It comes as no surprise that Brazil won the 2003 World Youth Cup – a tournament for players 20 years of age or under – as they had a 25-year-old marshaling midfield. Carlos Alberto claimed he was born in 1983 but it later surfaced he’d been born five years earlier. He was subsequently banned for 360 days, or 450 days in Alberto’s calculations, which scuppered a lucrative move to Brazilian giants Sao Paulo.