Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Football's Slave Trade

Sky is running a show at the moment called Football's Slave Trade. It's about unscrupulous football agents who exploit the enormous desire of young African footballers to play the game in Europe.

It is covered in today's Metro.

I went to Ghana in 2009 to research the issue, spending time watching football there and meeting young players. I was lucky to be hosted by the Right to Dream football academy, who do things the right way. I also read a lot of newspaper and magazine articles about the problem. Plus, a couple of disertations.

My book - Off Side - is about a young footballer from Ghana who is trafficked to the UK, expecting to play football for a Premier League team, only to find he and his family have been cheated. There is nothing in Europe for him and his family have lost everything.

Off Side is based on true stories I researched. Experts estimate there are over 7000 young men in Europe who have been trafficked in this way, many of whom are too ashamed to go home to Africa and end up involved in crime and prostitution.

Perhaps the most striking thing for me is that every few weeks I get an email from a footballer or coach in Ghana asking me if I will take their players to the UK and have a look at them. Because I write a series called Football Academy, they think I run an academy here in the UK.

I could quite easily set up my own scam. It shows how easy it would be.

FIFA, to their credit, are investigating.

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