The Sunday Mirror newspaper in the UK has investigated the links between trafficking and professional clubs in Britain in a report headlined: “Fake agents tricking thousands of football-loving kids into child trafficking hell”.
The Mirror quoted FIFA’s former head of security, ex-Interpol agent Chris Eaton, who said: “There are thousands of African children and youths tricked and even trafficked to European countries.
“They are all being attracted by the Premier League. English clubs have launched campaigns to stop this sort of crime, but it has not been matched by the Confederation of African Football or FIFA.
“They are failing in their moral duty. They talk about the dream, but so often the dream turns into a nightmare.”
The report referred to an investigation into a Paris-based passport forger whose fake documents were found on a player who moved from Mali to France, who was promised trials at one of Europe’s top clubs.
The young player was trafficked overland to Paris by Lebanese smugglers where he discovered the promise was a scam and was left unable to pay for a trip back home. Investigators who picked him up found jewellery and mobile phones on him, suggesting he had been forced into slavery for a criminal network.
Mission 89’s Matthew Hall is quoted in the report: “This is football’s dirty little secret.”
“It’s as simple as a man turning up in an African village wearing a white linen suit and promising a professional career.
“Quite often it never materialises and these people are left abandoned.”