The soccer slave trade
They’re young, talented and dream of one thing – becoming a football star like their idols. Sadly, they’re also the targets of agents who demand huge fees to take them to Europe from Africa for trials – then dump them. Nick Harding reports on the charity
Four years ago Luc Rosso was 16 and living in Cameroon. The promising young footballer attended a local football academy and had dreams of becoming a famous player like Aurélien Chedjou, one of his country’s most celebrated athletes, who recently signed up to play for Galatasaray in Istanbul. So when Luc was approached by a Nigerian scout who promised him a trial in Europe, he thought his dreams were about to come true.
“The agent had seen me play and knew my dream was to be at the very top,’’ says Luc. “He said I could play at a good level.” But there was a cost: The man wanted £6,500 (Dh37,134) to fund Luc’s trip overseas for some football trials at top clubs.
“The agent told my mother that if she could pay the amount I could get a deal. So she borrowed money from various people and gave it to the agent,” says Luc. She hoped that once Luc began playing for a big club, the money he earned would help her take care of her four other children and improve their life.
Everything appeared to be going well and a few days later, Luc was taken to Paris where he was told he would have a trial with a Portuguese club. “The agent took me to the Garde du Norde station and told me that we would get a train from there to the trial venue. He told me to wait on the platform while he got together a few other boys. That was the last I saw of him,’’ says Luc. After waiting on the platform for more than eight hours he realised he had been abandoned.
The teenager, who had never been overseas before, was scared and didn’t know what to do or who to approach for help. “I slept on the streets and in the underground,’’ he says. All he had was his suitcase, which had his football kit and a few provisions like some dried fruits and nuts that his mother had packed. He had given all the money he had to the agent. Luc was another victim of a con that has fooled thousands of poor young African footballers. The ‘agent’ was obviously bogus. There was no trial. Today Luc doesn’t have enough money to return home and his mother owes thousands of pounds to loan sharks who are constantly at her door. The family has been reduced to growing cocoa plants around their home to make ends meet.
After spending months homeless and on the streets, Luc was spotted by volunteers of a charity called Foot Solidaire, who helped him find free accommodation. They also provided
lucky to have been saved by Foot Solidaire
Fake agent, fake tryout
Luc Russo was