Africa’s soccer swindle

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images The BBC has a pair of interesting stories today about an awful practice in Nigeria and other African countries where conmen pose as sports agents and dupe young, would-be soccer players out of thousands of dollars. These fraudsters tell youths — many of whom live in the slums of Lagos, Accra and ...

594014_080715_africasoccerbig5.jpg
594014_080715_africasoccerbig5.jpg

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

The BBC has a pair of interesting stories today about an awful practice in Nigeria and other African countries where conmen pose as sports agents and dupe young, would-be soccer players out of thousands of dollars. These fraudsters tell youths -- many of whom live in the slums of Lagos, Accra and other cities and see soccer as a way to escape poverty -- that they can guarantee them a trial with a club in the English Premiership, the most competitve soccer league in the world.

Trafficking in African youths has become a growing concern for soccer's governing body, Fifa, as middlemen can bypass work permit restrictions and bring teenage Africans into European countries, where they are then sold to clubs for large sums of money, or simply discarded on the streets of major European cities.

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

The BBC has a pair of interesting stories today about an awful practice in Nigeria and other African countries where conmen pose as sports agents and dupe young, would-be soccer players out of thousands of dollars. These fraudsters tell youths — many of whom live in the slums of Lagos, Accra and other cities and see soccer as a way to escape poverty — that they can guarantee them a trial with a club in the English Premiership, the most competitve soccer league in the world.

Trafficking in African youths has become a growing concern for soccer’s governing body, Fifa, as middlemen can bypass work permit restrictions and bring teenage Africans into European countries, where they are then sold to clubs for large sums of money, or simply discarded on the streets of major European cities.

In an accompanying video, an undercover reporter from the BBC — posing as the parent of a talented teenaged soccer player — can be seen negotiating with one of the swindlers in a Lagos hotel. After promising the undercover reporter that his son will be given a trial with Manchester United, the man is confronted with a television crew before being carted off by Nigerian police.

Nigeria is not the only country affected. Just over a year ago, 34 young boys from Ivory Coast were promised trials in Europe, borrowed the money to pay their bogus agents, and were then robbed and held against their will in neighboring Mali.

Sepp Blatter, the President of Fifa, has accused Europe’s wealthy soccer clubs, who often turn a blind eye to this despicable practice, as commiting “social and economic rape” of Africa.

He’s right. European clubs are often the subjects of the wildest dreams of young African soccer players. They have a responsibility to see that these dreams are not abused by criminals.

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