Trafficking of Young African Footballers – The Racket Exposed!

Perhaps, Jean Claude Mbroumin, founder of Charity/ Culture Foot Solitaire (CFS) in Cameroon, has been one of those in the forefront of exposing the dangers of trafficking young African football players. He recently featured in a documentary film called ‘Soka Afrika,’ that traced the journey of Cameroonian, Julilen Ndomo Sabo.

Sabo was trafficked to Europe as teenager after he and his family were promised riches beyond their imagination. But was abandoned their in Paris to fend for himself. Sabo’s was may not be as pathetic as so many African youngsters that had lost their lives in this lofty journey to stardom.

I could still remember the story of Mama Sam, a poor middle aged widow in Lagos Nigeria, who narrated how his only son, Samuel, was taken by one Alex (An Agent) to Ukraine but she never ever heard again from either his son or the Alex.

Sabo and Sam may just be examples of over 10, 000 young players that leave the shores of Africa each year on this ‘golden flee’ to Europe. Often smuggled by some unscrupulous individuals, be they former players, businessmen, Lawyers, Coaches or Unlicensed Agents, who connive with clubs’ management in some instance, to perpetrate a kind of players’ slavery.

Why the Racket
The movement of African players to Europe is long established. European clubs generally regard African Players as athletically and technically endowed; and relatively cheap to develop, with added potential that club can make a huge profit – if they are sold in future.

These youngsters were discovered in some grassroots competitions in some remote villages or taken from hundreds of football academies in Africa by clubs desperate to unearth the next Samuel Eto, Yaya Toure or Mikel Obi.

And for the youngsters, the idea of becoming a world class player in Europe hold the promise of a better and fame for themselves abroad and their families back home.

How Young Players Are Smuggled
I’ve heard a lot about unethical agents and fraudsters luring these young players and their parents with different methods.

I know agents use ‘money weapon,’ promising the player and his parent’s untold riche; and the parents ‘kind of selling’ their young son to these agents or organizations.

Often, these players are brought to Europe on an illegal Passport, false name, Age; and forged invitation letters, hotel reservations and return tickets. Frequently taken first to Eastern Europe in countries such Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, Moldova, Poland, and Turkey… where it’s easier to arrange a Visa before moving them on to western countries.

Really, an agent cannot do anything without a club at the end of the deal. If the youngster succeeds in the football tests, the agent connives with the club to sign him on a long contract that may last between 5 – 7 years. The agent can keep as much as 75% of the sign-on fees. Usually, the player is dubiously made to sign such contract under some form of duress – this is football slavery!

But if the club doesn’t sign the player, the agent abandons and the youngster is left to his own devices to how he returns to Africa. At a stage, CFS was monitoring nearly 1,000 boys dumped in France and Julius Agahowa, an ex-player from Nigeria, who himself was a victim of the racket, said, “I have already helped hundreds of youngsters return home after they were left stranded in Europe.”

“Some desperate youngsters may have been deceived to destroy their Passport and it becomes difficult to just help them buy flight ticket back to their country in Africa.” Agahowa explained.

These are often the case, when fraudsters dupe parents or the young player of their money with a promise to get them several trial tests and on getting to Europe. There were no club try outs and the fraudster that brought them suddenly disappears into the thin air.

Maybe, the player had borrowed the huge fund or sold family land or valuable properties back home and the zeal to return isn’t there anymore – “I succeed or die here!”

We need your cooperation here. By making comments or telling your own story, you’re helping put an end to this hideous Human Trafficking.

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