WITH THE World Cup being staged in South Africa in less than two years time, African footballers are being increasingly put under the ethical microscope. On Thursday, as part of Coventry University’s ‘Africa Day’, the media lecture series, Coventry Conversations organised a special debate entitled, ‘Is football the new slavery’? writes Danielle Cox.
Among those attending was MBE recipient Cyril Regis, a former Coventry City and England player as well as Chris Nathaniel who represents Manchester United and England international, Rio Ferdinand.
The debate covered the exploitation of African players as they come to play in Europe, especially the Premier League, and the lack of support currently being offered to those players who ‘failed’ to make it in the elite leagues.
Regis said that he did not consider current trends to be slavery, but instead “an exploitation of people’s dreams” which has been encouraged by the huge amounts of money often present in professional football.
He added that the promise of enormous rewards for those players who succeed means that few wish to give-up on the dream, and those who do are often subject to a type of “familial blackmail”. This would see individuals remain in an industry regarded as punishing simply to support their families back home.
Some football agents are ‘opportunists’
Another area touched upon was the fraudulent actions of the many conmen who present themselves as reputable agents, with one example being outlined. A family would be asked to pay around £3,000 to get their son(s) into a training camp or team in another country. If negotiations were successful, and the money paid to the agent(s), the player(s) would then be abandoned upon their arrival.
Ade Daramy – journalist and broadcaster – said that these unscrupulous individuals were “selling a dream that very, very rapidly becomes a nightmare”. It emerged that many of these unsupported players are in actual fact illegal immigrants as a result of their ‘agent’s’ actions; Chris Nathaniel described these individuals as “opportunists, not agents”, adding: “wherever you get business, you’re going to get opportunists”.
Organiser of Score4Africa, Oneyachi Wambo believes that the fundamental solution to this escalating problem is to improve the regulations governing the game, and to plough some of the immense profits the games generates back into it.