A former Nigeria defender Taribo West has been accused of serious age fraud by some of the clubs he played for during his professional career in Europe. A Daily Mail (Mail Online) of England publication on Wednesday attributed the statement to ex-president of Partizan Belgrade, Zarko Zecevic.
The former Nigeria centre half, now retired, joined Serbian team Partizan Belgrade in 2002 after leaving Derby County and told club bosses he was 28 when he was actually 40, the paper reported.
Zecevic, has accused him of lying, saying the former defender with Derby County, Plymouth and Inter Milan was lying about his age while insisting that Taribo was actually 40.
Zecevic said, “He joined us saying he was 28. We only later found out he was 40, but he was still playing well so I don’t regret having him on the team.”
But according to the Croatian media, the former defender known for his colourful hairstyles also lied when trying to join Croatia’s Rijeka club. At the age of 44, they said Taribo told club doctors he was only 32. It was only after an examination that the doctors raised suspicions with the club because Taribo’s knees suggested he was older.
He wasn’t signed to the team but later joined Plymouth and then Iranian side Paykan FC, where he ended his career at the age of 46 in 2008.
The retired player, who now works as a pastor in the ministry he started as a player, told The PUNCH on the telephone on Wednesday that it is very suggestive that such matter would be coming up about 10 years after he left that team.
“I don’t really know what they are talking about and that’s why I don’t really have anything much to say. But it is curious that they are raising such matter about 10 years after I left the place. Why was the matter not raised while I was there? Why talk about it long after I retired from the game,” Taribo said.
Age-cheating has been a serious issue in Nigerian football especially since the world football governing body FIFA introduced age-grade competitions. Even though some of the foreign clubs have treated some of the country’s players with suspicions, this is the first bold and direct accusation made against a Nigerian player.
It was not immediately clear under what circumstance or forum that Mr. Zecevic raised the matter.