Ismail Akwei: My Encounter with Sports Trafficking

Ismail Akwei: My Encounter with Sports Trafficking

Sports trafficking is not an unknown phenomenon in Accra where ‘scouts’ sell ‘packages’ to families as the major way for their children to play for big teams in Europe.

Growing up, I always heard the stories of promising football players who went largely to Turkey and Spain to try out for teams. Many were not heard from while others returned home after some months, eager to try again.

Many did not think of these offers in terms of trafficking because it was regarded as an opportunity for anyone to be helped to leave the country or better, get a player to try out with teams.

Anti-trafficking campaign messages flashed on our screens during major football competitions, yet the message did not set in. Maybe it was because of the anxiety and excitement to see the start, second half and the analysis of the match of the day.

I had my first shock in 2014 when trafficking came up in a conversation with a friend’s brother who was a victim and had always regretted taking that path.

He played football actively and was eager to play professionally. He dedicated his life to the game to the detriment of securing a job that could support him.

Family and friends supported him while he trained with a local team day-in and day-out until the ‘breakthrough’ following the introduction of a scout who promised heaven in Turkey.

He quickly signed up and started the search for the thousands of dollars demanded to facilitate the trip to success. His family joined in and there was joy as a relative paid the fees for the trip.

He stuttered when he explained how he was disappointed by the scout who failed to meet him and other ‘lucky’ future stars at the airport. They waited for hours and had to look for the hotel they had booked from Ghana themselves, with the little money in hand.

To sum up, there was no team to try out with and they stayed at the hotel, praying for a call. He stayed for nearly a month and was fortunate to have a supportive family that urged him to return home. He did not know the fate of the others, since they were not lucky enough to have benevolent sponsors like he did.

He continues to play football as a hobby and has started a family on the meagre-salaried job he has gained. His dream of becoming a football star has died along with hopes of lifting his family out of poverty.

#NotInOurGame #endhumantrafficking

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