PtG Article 23.02.2007

Danish football club reported to FIFA for trafficking of young players

FIFPro - the international organisation for professional football players - has reported a Danish football club to FIFA and accused it of trafficking of young football players from Nigeria. FIFPro also attacks the Danish Football Association (DBU) for issuing international transfer certificates to the players in contravention of FIFA rules.

Since 2004 the Danish football club FC Midtjylland (FCM) has been running a football academy for young talented players from Denmark and from the club FC Ebedi in Nigeria. According to FCM’s own website all players have contracts with the club, and the players attend local schools.

But says FIFPro, as long as the players from Nigeria are under 18 years of age, the club is breaching FIFA’s regulations for the status and transfer of players by admitting them to the football academy.

Article 19.4 in FIFA’s rules does not allow international transfers of minors from Africa into the EU unless their parents are moving to the country for reasons unrelated to football. Nevertheless, the Danish Football Association (DBU) has issued international transfer certificates for each of these players.

FIFPro calls FCM’s actions for trafficking and exploitation of young players.

”It is of major importance that young players from Africa are not imported the way it is happening in Denmark. The club has no right to bring the players to the country and the football association is not allowed to give them permission to play,” says Theo van Seggelen, secretary general of FIFPro, to the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

Rule does not apply to students, claims club

The club maintains that FIFA’s article 19.4 does not apply to the players from Nigeria. In a statement on the club’s website, FCM sports director Jens Ørgaard says that the Nigerians are in Denmark primarily to study. In their spare time they play football for FCM as amateurs.

”If the offer FCM gives to its foreign students contravenes FIFA’s article 19.4, the consequence would be that citizens from outside EU that get permission to study in another country than their own, would have to give up playing football on an amateur basis in their spare time. That has never been the purpose of FIFA’s article 19,” the statement reads.

FIFPro argues that calling the players students and amateurs is not an acceptable excuse for taking in African players under the age of 18, and the organisation for professional football players also draws attention to the fact that the Danish club has made a business arrangement with a company called FCM Ghana Invest in which possible transfer income from players groomed at the academy will be distributed between the club and a person in Nigeria.

This could potentially become a very profitable arrangement for FCM. One of the Nigerian talents is Agidun Salami who is now 18. Clubs such as Italian Reggina and British Chelsea and Manchester United are interested in the young player whose pricetag is set at 15 million Danish kroner according to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

FCM will get a little less than 50 per cent of the transfer sum and the rest will be divided between FCM Ghana Invest and Salami’s agent if the player gets sold.