Young African players 'being exploited'
False agents who lure young African footballers to Europe with the promise of a contract only to leave them abandoned are still a major problem, a FIFA-backed charity has warned.
The Culture Foot Solidaire group (CFS), headed by former Cameroon international Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, estimates that up to 15,000 aspiring African players are persuaded abroad every year under false pretences.
Mbvoumin claims that agents pose as European club representatives and exploit families for sums of up to 10,000 euros, in return for the promise of a lucrative contract abroad.
"In Africa, you have the dream, everyone wants to be Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure," he told Reuters. “There's the big dream and the families don't have good information. They pay money, they think the children will succeed in football and they leave the children with unknown people."
CFS is determined to end the exploitation of these youngsters, who are often led through the Sahara or across the Mediterranean in covert boats, before being left stranded without official paperwork or jobs.
"We don't have official figures because that's difficult for an illegal phenomenon, but from the NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations] working there, we believe we have about 15,000 young Africans moving out of Africa every year because of football," Mbvoumin said.
“Sometimes, the children don't want to go back because of the shame, because the family have paid a lot of money, sometimes even selling their home to pay the middleman.”
FIFA has pledged their support to the charity’s campaign, imposing a ‘Transfer Matching System’ (TMS) where players under 18 require approval from an investigative committee.
While it has cut down the number of youngsters moving abroad, Mbvoumin believes that the problem is still at large as a result of African football’s lack of funding.
"We can say that TMS works for the organised football but we know that in Africa, 80 percent of youth football is run by non-official academies," he said.
"All the traffickers, the middle men, the fake agents, work on these training academies. In Africa, we don't have sports policy, we don't have protection of minors, or even organised youth football.”
CFS signed an agreement on Wednesday with the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security, and Mbvoumin hopes that both the European and African footballing authorities will provide further support.
He said: "We need to develop the sport, the training of the young people, the protection of the young people, and organise an awareness campaign for the young players.”