BBC BLOGS - Piers Edwards

Archives for January 2011

An age of change?

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Piers Edwards | 15:28 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Over the years, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Sammy Kuffuor, Alex Song, Mahamadou Diarra, Seydou Keita and others have used the African Under-17 finals as a springboard to eventual contracts with the likes of Chelsea, Bayern, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Yet hundreds of others have never progressed from the potential shown at age group events to reach the top nor even enjoyed a professional career, and countless African football fans will tell you that the thorny issue of age-cheating is largely to blame.

In some cases, careers have peaked before they're properly began but the much-maligned Confederation of African Football (Caf) is trying to address this issue at this month's U17 finals in Rwanda - where they've age-tested all the players.

Two years ago, Caf was stung by the run-up to the U17 World Cup in Nigeria where Fifa were introducing MRI scans for the first time. Wary of the tests, Africa's competitors decided it might be wise to do their own before the finals - and the results were damning.

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Brave Obilale battling back in spite of African football

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Piers Edwards | 16:22 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

His lifelong dream shattered in a split-second. The blink of an eye that Togolese goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale would rather forget - but simply can't.

"I remember the moment very clearly," he tells this week's World Football programme on the BBC World Service. "The atmosphere and group dynamic among the squad was really good, we were young, and everyone was ready for the Nations Cup.

"We were going there to do something special."

As the Togolese bus made its way through the northern Angolan enclave of Cabinda, the high spirits were being captured on film by press officer Stanislas Ocloo as he roamed the bus. He never finished his documentary. He died.

"All of a sudden we heard these gunshots," Obilale, 26, recalls one year on from the traumatic events. "From the first shots, I was hit in the back. I took two bullets."

"It was like a war film."

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