Slaves of football

Soccer is not a game anymore - and it hasn't been for a very long time. Non-profit organization FIFA alone raked in 3.2 billion dollar during the Soccer Worldcup 2010 cycle (2007 - 2010) and has budgeted for an income of 3.8 billion dollar for the upcoming cycle. With that kind of money it is only a matter of time before criminals step in and try to take their share - which they have, in plenty.

For starters there is of course FIFA itself, with its doubtful methods of protecting its income. For example, sponsor Budweiser is the only beer allowed at soccer worldcup venues. So when a group of Dutch women tried to attend the games dressed in the orange mini skirts bearing the brand name of small Dutch brewer Bavaira, they were summarily arrested and jailed through a law that had been drawn up for the occasion in response to demands from FIFA. Seeing as about 30% of FIFA's income is derived from sponsorships, FIFA will stop at nothing in order to protect its sponsorship deals. Which is easy, because when politicans smell money and glory (both of which come with hosting a soccer world cup event) they are happy to bend over if that will help them to join the fun.

Another important player is the so-called "betting mafia" which has prompted FIFA to establish an early warning system that monitors around 400 major bookmakers world-wide for signs of match fixing. And then there are the small traders who try to sell merchandise that hasn't been bought from FIFA wholesalers at ridiculous prices, which FIFA also counts among the criminals.

But that is by no means the worst - at least not in terms of human suffering. Much more misery can be found in West Afrika, something that has increased during recent years thanks, in no small part thanks to the soccer world cup games being hosted in Africa. Countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana, to name a few, appear to offer an excellent soccer climate: they have provided the world with numerous brilliant (and promising) players. African soccer prodigies are a popular import product with European clubs. Soccer players are merchandise - merchandise with considerable value. For the merchandise this trade doesn't always end well. But even more serious is that in West Africa, where there is trade, crime is never far away.

In the slums of West Africa you will find no jobs, no food, and no plumbing. What you will find is thousands of young men who, for lack of a better occupation, spend their days practicing with a football, and drreaming of being discovered by one of the prestigious Europan clubs. Deep down inside they know that it takes more than some agility and ball handling skills to become a big soccer star, but in the face of the misery that is their daily lives they are more than happy to ignore that reality. As if to to attend that shortcoming, there are countless "soccer academies" around who promise to train up these aspiring young football talents into full-fledged players. At a price, of course... but often families are willing to give up everything, spend whatever savings they may have and sell what little they own, in order to give one of their children a chance for fame and glory, a decent future, and an income that would feed them all and then some. But the sad reality is that the "football academy" always turns out to be a miserable slum that the aspiring hopeful young soccer talents will never leave. Technically one may not call it slavery as such, since the victims are not property in a formal sense, but de facto it is, and at the very least this is to be classified as human trafficking, - although "inhuman" would be a better term. Criminal fraudsters usually pretend to be talent scouts representing the best European football clubs (especially British clubs seem to be popular) and promist a golden future in European soccer - as long as the "expenses" get paid up front. But instead of a golden future the victims end up in apalling conditions where most of them are stuck for life.

An interesting documentary on the subject is "Soccer's lost boys" (of which, unfortunately, I can only find a trailer on the 'web (suggestions, anyone?) and Aljazeera is currently running an episode of their series "People and power" on it, which can be viewed online (at least at this time of writing) and which I heartily recommend.

Update: A full version of "Soccer's lost boys" can be seen here.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...