I just wanted to put this out there for those who may not be aware, or for those who may be more aware than I and can comment on this supposed phenomenon.
The Ancient Bison? via www.chelseafc.com
I have a few friends from western Africa (Ghana and Nigeria predominantly) that share an interested in EPL football. One of the many discussions we've had centered on something they referred to as "African age." Allegedly, as a way of increasing a player's value, clubs, families, agents, and/or the players themselves forge legal documents in order to misrepresent the player's age. A younger player is worth more in transfer value and likely gets a longer late-career contract than they would otherwise. Essentially each of the aforementioned parties benefits all-around from a pretended younger age.
Now, my conversation partners noted that this was a result of many African nations having less than strict and secure legal systems, but as this was changing, age misrepresentation had become less prominent. However, one of the Ghanaian friends insisted that Essien was among the perpetrators of this type of incident, and that our Blue Bison was actually 2-3 years older than our records state. It's hard to blame a young man for taking the advice of his family/representation, and I can imagine the idea of increasing one's own value would be a rather seductive one.
Does anyone have any further information regarding this phenomenon, and/or knowledge about the age status of other African-born players we currently employ or are looking at?