Innocent Kurira, Sports Reporter
AGE cheating has severely hampered sport development in the country over the years.
It has unfortunately become a cancer that we have tolerated and learnt to live with, albeit with dire consequences.
Primary and secondary schools around the country are involved in various sporting competitions but the major stumbling block has been age cheating.
Cases of age cheating are rampant and some individual schools as well as provinces seem to have perfected the art of age cheating just for the glory.
The zeal to win tends to override the value of athletes’ development in our schools.
National Association of Primary School Heads and National Association of Secondary School Heads competitions are spoiled by age cheating every year.
A number of schools have dominated Naph and Nash competitions but failed to produce stars after school due to age cheating.
The fight against age cheating has been going on for years but the battle seems difficult to win.
In a paper published in 2014, Lazarus Sauti says age cheating has brought disrepute to African football simply because African soccer players want to boost their market value by claiming to be years younger than they are.
“Age cheating does not only exist in football, it is prevalent in all sports at different occurrences. In Zimbabwe this ‘pandemic’ affects all sports levels from school to national association level,” reads the report.
Renowned athletics coach and sports science lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Bhekuzulu Khumalo believes biometric machines can bring a solution to the problem.
“I have always been convinced that Zimbabwe has an opportunity to combat it. The biometric machines used for voter registration during elections could be used to collect such data for every Zimbabwean child starting from ECD level. This then would be the system to use at sports vetting, meaning one cannot change personal details against the biometric data.
“Zimbabwe uses biometric data to identify voters during elections then the gadgets lie idle in between elections. My view is that these machines can be used to gather data of all citizens of all ages. Use schools as centres for data collection. After all, teachers are trained to use these machines, as they are the ones involved in elections. This means wherever there are sports needing age screening, the same machines are used for vetting,” Khumalo said.
Biometrics have the potential to make authentication dramatically faster, easier and more secure than traditional passwords.
Biometrics are physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices or data. Examples of these biometric identifiers are fingerprints, facial patterns, voice or typing cadence.
World football governing body Fifa has in recent years encouraged and supported participating member associations to conduct their own Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests in the build-up to youth tournaments in order to ensure that players are compliant with the age limit.
The biggest challenge has been to get the equipment for that due to lack of funds.
At the beginning of this year, sports scribes from the Southern Region called for jail sentence for teachers and sports administrators caught engaging in age cheating during any sporting competition in the country.
Media practitioners argued that cheating was tantamount to corruption as it gave an unfair advantage to those involved in the act while also denying talented youngsters an opportunity to expose their skills among their age mates.
Monetary fines have been imposed on such culprits but it seems the sanction has not been deterrent enough as evidenced by the increasing cases. It is high time the country followed global trends in tackling these issues. — @innocentskizoe