The former president of Serbian club Partizan Belgrade has accused West of lying about his age, saying the former Nigerian international was 12 years older than he claimed to be during when he played for the club from 2002-04. Zarko Zecevic says West told the club he was 28, but he was actually 40, according to the Mail.
“‘He joined us saying he was 28,” Zecevic said. “We only later found out he was 40, but he was still playing well so I don’t regret having him on the team.”
West’s current age is listed at 39, which is unremarkable for a player enjoying the fifth year of his retirement. But if he currently older than 50, then his career begins to seem simply astounding.
West’s professional journey ran from 1992-2008, taking him to 10 clubs in eight countries. He also represented Nigeria from 1994-02. He played a key role in his country’s gold-medal-winning squad in 1996 and also appeared in two FIFA World Cups (1998 and 2002) for the Super Eagles.
It was thought that West was 22 years old during the 1996 Summer Olympic games, but his actual age would have been closer to 34 if Zecevic is correct. He was reportedly a 23-year-old when he left French club Auxerre for Inter Milan in 1997. If Zecevic’s calculations are taken into account, then West was actually 35 when he moved to the Italian giant. Two years later, he joined crosstown rival AC Milan for one campaign. He spent the 2000-01 season with Derby County in England’s Premier League and joined Kaiserslautern in Germany’s top flight the following season.
West spent the final six seasons of his career playing for clubs in less heralded leagues like Serbia, Qatar, England’s second division and Iran. He played very few league games during the long autumn of his career, but he always seemed fit enough to land that next contract. When he left Iranian club Paykan FC in November 2007, he was 33 as far as the public was concerned. But he would have actually been 46 if Zecevic is correct.
West has denied Zecevic’s allegations, according to Goal.com. He says his age was never an issue during his time at Partizan Belgrade.
“I don’t really know what they are talking about and that’s why I don’t really have anything much to say,” Goal.com reports West told The Punch. ”But it is curious that they are raising such matters 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.”
It’s likely that this story will end with West’s denial, but wouldn’t it be great if he did, in fact, reach the top of the game long after conventional wisdom says he should have? The idea of him doing so might just reignite the faded dreams of those players over 30 around the world.
Photo via Facebook/Taribo West