The South African Football Players Union(SAFPU) finds itself between a rock and a hard place yet again, as we try to bring light into Senzo Meyiwa’s “false age” revelation. We are not, in any way possible, trying to justify this act. In all honesty, this whole topic is not about the late Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, but the system he has fallen victim to. This is a system that has taught many that it is okay to cut their age in order to compete in lower age groups. It is important to note that there are a lot of young boys and girls, mostly in schools, that are forced to alter their age by administrators who want to appear as immense contributors in sports and claim the status of being real discoverers and nurturers of raw talent.
Senzo Meyiwa was a victim of this very system that is encouraged from junior levels of sports and endorsed by administrators who are the real beneficiaries. And, just like with drug cartels, these administrators are never found guilty. We were left in awe by the sudden interest to “tell the truth” by the man identified as Senzo’s former teacher. This is a man who has failed us all as a country, as he watched and rejoiced with us while Meyiwa played through the junior ranks of the national team, performing roles he had the expertise to carry out. If telling the truth really mattered to him, he would have brought the late Bafana Bafana captain’s real age to the public’s attention, if not the relevant authorities.
Yet, he decided to keep quiet and only speak now that Nzori is no longer around to account. And yet again, another athlete, a footballer in particular, takes heat for a crime he was actually a victim of. Who would have decided that because of his stature, he could play for an age group he did not legally qualify for? It was the same people who are, yet again, getting away with it and shifting the blame to his absent self. Senzo Meyiwa joined Orlando Pirates at a tender age of ”thirteen”. If there is any truth in him being born in 1984, as recently reported, then he would have come to the club at 16 years old.
Knowing his background, he had come to the former African champions to escape the disadvantages of his upbringing with hopes of providing subsistence to his family. He had not come to play for the U14 or U15 teams. He had come to play football, an opportunity which he was granted. Athletes who rightfully deserve to perform in particular age groups or ranks are undermined by cheating infested in these groups by a system that many athlete in the country and abroad have fallen victim to. This act results to an unfortunate loss of talent that is overlooked in favour of those with an age advantage.
To this extent, SAFPU does not condone this act. But, are athletes really to blame for this? They just want to play sports and administrators want to make as much money and win as many accolades with, and from, them as possible. When you are given only two options: “this way” or the “highway,” you will choose “this way” for development, growth and survival reasons. This is a problem that the world of sport is faced with and we need to get to the bottom of it. As an organization that operates to serve and protect footballers in this country, we stand against any falsification of age and intend to make a move towards eradicating it from the beautiful games of sports that we all love because it does not only crush dreams and careers. It also kills sports.
Comparing apples with apples, Senzo operated within rules set by administrators who can be compared to drug Lords in this argument and he was the dealer on a street corner. He was the one who put his life on the line for the benefit of his providers. It is only in rare cases that a dealer would call out his suppliers. Most dealers often take the heat while the real perpetuators maintain their freedom and stay clean. In many documented instances, dealers find themselves in such situations as a last resort. We do not excuse both acts – drug dealing and the matter at hand – but we need to get to the roots of these problems and solve them ground up.
In conclusion, if the teacher who came out was really concerned, then we should go back to the very same school he comes from and check if age cheating is not a common practise there. If so, then we have a serious problem that we must deal with – from junior levels. Once again, age cheating must be eradicated from all forms of sports.