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Article 19 Sideline African Youth Footballers from Playing In Europe - What You Need to Do!

Lots of disappointment from hundreds of kids that flooded FC Biscola, Barcelona's football academy in Lagos Nigeria, hoping they will soon be transferred to the club's youth team in Spain. But at best, during the summer, when Nigerian schools are on a long vacation, these kids are made to pay as much as N1M (one million naira) just to go for a playing tour in Spain  The exorbitant academy termly fees are "killing these kids' parents" and many of these disappointed youths are dropping out of the academy...they have realized they aren't going to play for FC Barcelona youth team after all.

What's the Issue?
Well, not many of these kids and their families are aware of FIFA rules against youths playing abroad. They don't as well understand the difference between an academy and a youth team. Because of the Popularity of these elite clubs in Europe, parents are just pushing at all cost to get their kids over there.

But in 2011,  FIFA penalized Barcelona for what it called illegal international transfers, one less publicized piece of the fallout was signing talented foreign youth players under the stipulated age. From then under age youths playing abroad at clubs all over the world, soon found their registration cards were revoked (or impossible to renew) as clubs and federations hurriedly hewed to eligibility rules they had long ignored.

What is officially known as FIFA Article 19, In clear terms, stated that youth players are not allowed to register with a team in a country other than their own until they are 18.

The rule was made to protect kids from being pulled away from their families at early age. Created in 2001, with pure intentions: It was enacted largely as a way to stop agents and clubs from bringing children from less-developed non-European countries to Europe for mass tryouts (before, frequently, abandoning them if a team did not sign them).

Oriol Sala, who runs a private soccer academy in Spain known as Kaptiva , said he used to advertise to prospective players’ families that their sons would be able to easily get Spanish or Catalan registration cards and join Spanish club teams if they impressed during practices and games. Ever since FIFA punished Barcelona, however, Sala said that “my entire business model had to change.”

How Clubs and Families Work to Beat the FIFA Article 19 Rule
FIFA lists three exceptions: If a player lives within 50 kilometers of a country’s border and his desired club is within 50 kilometers of the same border; if a player is moving from one European country to the other and is at least 16; or if a player’s family is moved to a different country for reasons “not linked to football.”

The last one has long been the subject of much manipulations. Clubs encourage and assist families of these under age youths with potentials of becoming big stars, to relocate to the clubs country in Europe, claiming other reasons for their relocation.

According to interviews with parents, coaches and officials, is that in the years before Barcelona’s sanctions, most national federations rarely did any digging into the players whom clubs wanted to register. Enforcement of the rule was sporadic, at best.

It was, essentially, “a free-for-all,” according to one soccer executive: big-name clubs imported young talents from around the world, often enticing players with “precontracts” or other financial incentives for their families. (Messi joined Barcelona at age 13 after the club agreed to pay for growth hormone treatments.) but it is not so any more.

Some Nigerian parents that move to Europe because of their kid's football potentials are so frustrated because they have to stay in a country at least 7 years or more before their kids can be regarded as home grown talent in that country and legible for registration as well as joining youth teams there.

The case of Kester Okota 
Kester Okota who still gets up early for school every morning so he can be finished in time for football training. He still practices, every day, at La Masia, the famed youth academy of F.C. Barcelona. He still spends much of his time at a place where he occasionally crosses paths with stars like Lionel Messi.

But Kester, whose entire family moved to Barcelona from Nigeria hoping he would someday become the first Enugu footballer to play for the elite club , has not been allowed to play in an official game for Barcelona’s youth teams in more than two years now.

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