In 2016, the Western Cape Department of Social Development took in five young boys from KwaZulu-Natal‚ who had been recruited and deceived into travelling to Cape Town under the impression of having secured places at a top soccer club’s training academy. Four of the boys were under 18 years of age‚ and the fifth was 19 years old. They were rescued from the streets by the Department’s human trafficking unit who made arrangements for their safe return home.
The Ajax Cape Town football club said in a statement at the time: “There have been unfortunate events of continuous fraudulent activity with promises being made to young players of the possibility to attend trials at Ajax Cape Town’s Youth Academy for a certain fee. Under no circumstances would we ask for money from anyone to come on a trial at our youth academy.”
In this case the youth players and their families were financially exploited and the young people were trafficked from one province to another. However, this is a common scam often used to obtain large sums of money with promises of a football playing career overseas.
This week FIFPRO Africa, in collaboration with the Didier Drogba Foundation and the International Labour Organization (ILO), launched a campaign to raise awareness of African players being targeted and scammed by people pretending to be football agents.
FIFPRO Africa aims to empower players by warning them of the risks, providing education on the issue, and ultimately equipping them with the knowledge to protect themselves against these 'agents'.
“Africa is proud of its world-class footballers," said Côte d'Ivoire and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba. "Unfortunately, for every great success story there are many migrant players who see their dreams shattered. Those young people can find themselves facing great difficulties being alone in a foreign country; with no family and no network of acquaintances, they are totally vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”
Further information and educational resources such as the video can be found by visiting the FIFPRO website.