Europe is draining Africa of football talent

Lars Backe Madsen and Jens M. Johansson at Play the Game's conference in 2009

19.05.2010

By Play the Game
Extensive research into trafficking of young African players reveal that major European clubs systematically use loopholes in the regulation to recruit youth players from the African continent, leaving up to 20,000 former footballers living on the streets of European cities.

Norwegian investigative reporters, Lars Madsen and Jens Johansson, have for the last few years been looking into different aspects of trafficking of young players in international football. They presented their findings on Play the Game’s conference in Coventry in 2009.

Madsen and Johansson’s extensive research into trafficking of young African players reveal that major European clubs systematically use loopholes in the regulation to recruit youth players from the African continent, leaving up to 20,000 former footballers living on the streets of European cities.

Looking for young talent
Due to football’s growing economy, clubs and agents are doing more to get a hold of the raw talent before anyone else finds it in order to get it at a cheap price. And often this raw material is found on the African continent.

African football players often show their talent at a young age, which is why agents and clubs go for the very young players.

This tendency prompted FIFA to set regulations forbidding international transfers of minors. But this does not seem to have stopped the trafficking of young players.

Loopholes are instead used systematically by the European clubs to get around these regulations, Johansson and Madsen states.

Only care about the money
Many European clubs have African players on their teams and many of the African players have achieved more than they ever wished for by becoming football players in recognized European football clubs.

But there is a dark side to these transfers as well, as many of the young players are lost in the process and end up on the streets of Europe.

The two journalists find this to be the worst part of their research. “Europe is draining Africa for talent, and they only care about the money”.

Read more
Madsen and Johansson have published their findings in their book “Den Forsvunne Diamanten" (The Lost Diamond).

The book features several personal stories of African players who are brought to Europe, and it produces evidence of fake agents and human trafficking involving the major European clubs.

Read Play the Game’s review of the book “Den forsvunne Diamanten”

Read Lars Madsen and Jens Johansson’s entire presentation from Play the Game’s conference in 2009

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