Families of young soccer players in Africa are falling victim to false agents promising their sons careers with professional soccer clubs in Europe. Families are going to extent of selling their houses and using their life savings to pay the agents for “visa and travel expenses” upfront in exchange for promises of rich contracts with the biggest clubs in Europe.
Former Cameroon international, Jean-Claude Mbvoumin has recently spoke out about the troubling situation in his country:
“In Africa, you have thousands and thousands of academies for which the main goal is to transfer young players to Europe, he said on the sidelines of the Play the Game conference. They just want to make money, they don’t care about the health of the children.”
“Anyone can set up an academy with a small pitch, two or three poor-quality balls, and you have 50 young players running here and there,” he said. There is no changing room, no stadium, no office, no address; they have their office in a suitcase. You can have some guys with a phone and computer; they have an email address, they have one coach who doesn’t have the skill or qualification to train.”
This leads to children and families left with nothing as they invested everything they have with the hope that their son will play professionally.
FIFA has stated that protecting minors is a major concern to the ruling body. Per a statement they released, “Young footballers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation when they are in a foreign country without the appropriate controls. For FIFA, protecting the appropriate and stable development of a minor as a whole should prevail over purely sporting interests.”
Mbvoumin also believes a contributing factor to all of this is the general lack of opportunity to play in Africa.
“I played before crowds of 60,000 people in Cameroon. Officially, I was an amateur but I was paid. It was a very good time for me and I was happy to play in Cameroon,” he said.
“Nowadays in Cameroon we have professional football but only in name; in fact, the players are poorer than when I was playing. So everyone wants to leave the country and that is one of the problems.”