Article written

Better to play in Africa than to end up on the streets of Europe 1

Faced with the false promises of pseudo sports recruiters and the stories of misery that their big brothers who went to play in Europe tell many young footballers are choosing to stay in Africa.

Magadou Baraye, 24, a talented and disciplined footballer has made a courageous choice. That is to try and make it as a footballer in his home country of Senegal rather than leaving for Europe under uncertain conditions. For five years he has trained in Dakar in D1 at the Gorée Sports Union.  Thanks to football he is earning twice as much as the guaranteed minimum wage (47 700 FCFA or approximately €70). It is certainly less then what he would be making as a professional African player training in Europe but he does not regret his choice. “I manage to help my family,” he says. “If I go it would be on clear grounds and with real agents recognised by FIFA (International Federation of Association Football).”

In Senegal and in other African nations local initiatives are multiplying to allow youth to build a future at home and to prevent them from getting snatched into the claws of false recruiters with their lovely promises. In Dakar, since 2009, 32 young Senegalese players , 14 to 18 years old, have been selected by SMASH (Société de Management et d’Accompagnement Sportif et Human).  In the framing of this project, experts follow the players and orient them towards development centres for French and English clubs.

Little by little it all comes out. In certain football schools in Dakar young players who wanted to go to Europe start to give the names of the false agents who had deceived them. A first step in creating awareness about the dangers and towards the end of impunity. An ex Senegalese player expatriated in France – he said he worked for a French pro and who promised visas and invitations to test with European clubs to around fifteen kids – was arrested last April in Dakar. He is currently awaiting trial.

Much is left to be done to check the flow of young players ready to do almost anything in order to become the next Drogba or Eto’o. “There are some caught in a mess who reduce their age with the compliance of their parents and with false recruiting agents,” confirms Alpha Sylla, specialist in sports law and the head of a football school in Dakar. In the countryside of Senegal when they go before a jury it is enough for a youth or his parents to have three witnesses to his age. Corruption does the rest. With the new “birth act,” false recruiters make up an ID card and a passport before starting the process to get an unlikely visa. The conditions to obtain one of these precious objects has gotten much more difficult in Europe in the last little while.

Not an issue for fake managers who ask two to three million FCFA (between €3,000 and €4,500) from each player.  That is “without any insurance of success for the football tryouts or medical tests that guarantee players a first professional contract with a European club,” deplores Alpha Sylla. Tryouts which are becoming more and more selective, because professional European clubs recognise those that are lying about their age and their papers. They are now allotting fewer and fewer spots for non-Europeans. To such an extent that certain recruiters prefer to send their recruiters to Africa to develop their networks their rather than giving kids false hope or making them come over for nothing.

The less educated and the less talented a young player is the easier it is for them to become easy prey. “ The ‘agents’ recruit in the schools, the football centre and the sports associations in the neighbourhoods. In short, from informal tours. We do not consider these kids to be footballers,” explains Mbaye Diouf Dia, vice-president of the Senegalese football federation (FSF) in making reference to the conditions fixed by FIFA. The most important is that African and European clubs are affiliated with a national federation.

Faced with the quasi-impossibility to play professionally in Europe without taking useless risks – like the Ivory Coast footballer who ate from garbage bins in Paris after he failed at the tryouts for a French club – Magadou Baraye’s choice seems reasonable.

By Madieng SeckSyfia International/Sénégal

subscribe to comments RSS

Comments are closed

  1. […] Better to play in Africa than to end up on the streets of Europe … […]

P.IVA 11273390150
Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi