If they are good enough, they are old enough

2012-01-28 16:07

What on earth does age have to do with it? If you are good at what you do, why should it matter how old you are?

When is South Africa going to learn that it doesn’t mean a player is destined for the scrap-heap once he reaches 30?

For god’s sake, if Teenage Dladla, well into his 50s, can still play better than people half his age, surely common sense dictates that he should be picked ahead of them, right?

Right!

I watched with envy and admiration as Didier Drogba (32) helped Ivory Coast to a hard-fought victory against Sudan in the Africa Cup of Nations recently. How I wished the Chelsea striker was my countryman.

But damn it! If he were South African, there is a good chance he would have long been forced to retire from international football for the simple reason that he is over 30.

By the way, Drogba is actually just a year younger than our own Siyabonga Nomvethe, who is banging them in for Moroka Swallows in the PSL.

In fact, there are players who are almost 40, like Libya’s Ahmed Osman (37), representing their countries at Afcon.

Yet instead of representing his country, Nomvethe, like many of his over-30 peers, was excluded from Bafana’s ill-fated Afcon qualifying campaign.

Football should be about results and nothing else.

It makes sense that a coach who wants to achieve results will pick players based on their form and not on their date of birth in their ID books. Similarly, if a player is 17 and can do the job for the national team, why not play him? Age should never be a factor.

Last year, after Bafana’s failure to qualify for Afcon, there were numerous calls for the return of Nomvethe and Benni McCarthy, another over-30, and with good reason.

Football fans are not stupid. They know quality when they see it. Nomvethe and McCarthy, both 33, are scoring goals in the PSL and showing the maturity gained from years of experience in the game locally and abroad.

In another country, such experience and ability would be any coach’s dream. But strangely, in South Africa, we seem content to just let go of that wealth of experience.

Until we learn not to write off players merely because of their age, we will forever be building.

Of course Nomvethe’s recall never happened, and when approached by the media, the player himself said he was no longer interested in representing his country.

We can only assume that after being discarded and treated like a nobody after his last appearance at the Fifa 2010 World Cup, Nomvethe felt he could no longer stomach the humiliation.

Some of the top performers in the PSL are over 30s who have been lucky enough not to be discarded.

Lucky Lekgwathi is the mainstay of the Orlando Pirates defence, Nomvethe and McCarthy are banging them in and Arthur Bartman produces man-of-the-match performances when given the chance in the Kaizer Chiefs goal.

At Wits, Stanton Fredericks continues to be an inspiration in midfield, and until last season, Hans Vonk was the tower behind Ajax Cape Town’s good league run.

Internationally, the likes of Lothar Mattheus, Rigobert Song, Kanu Nwankwo, Peter Shilton, Roger Milla and Cafu represented their countries well into their late 30s.

In fact, Shilton and Milla played for England and Cameroon until after their 40th birthdays. And that was because they were considered good enough to make a difference.

But locally, coaches justify the exclusion of the likes of Nomvethe under the guise of developing and grooming youngsters. For how long are we going to build?

If a MacBeth Sibaya can do the job in midfield, then why not pick him? Why get rid of all those years of vital experience?

I have nothing against grooming youngsters, by the way, but if it comes at the expense of experience, ability and results, then it’s pointless.

If we just discard the experience of having played in the Olympics, the World Cup and Afcon under the guise of development, we’ll keep building ‘til kingdom come.

» Tell us what you think: Should development be prioritised over experience? Leave your comment below or on our Facebook page or Twitter: @City_Press

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