Soccer’s Lost Boys is an evocative documentary about soccer trafficking in Africa. Vanguard correspondent Mariana van Zeller interviews players, parents, and coaches to show how West African families hand over life savings to agents who promise a tryout in Europe.
The film shows that the players are mostly abandoned in Morocco or Europe, without money and too ashamed to return home.
Youth coaches sign children to contracts and encourage them to drop out of school, in the hopes of someday getting their cut if the boys get sold to a real team. Agents demand thousands of dollars to take boys to Morocco, or smuggle them into Europe, where possibly they will get a meaningless tryout. But typically, they abandon the boys. Some players turn to prostitution, drug-dealing, or crime as they hang on to their dreams of becoming real footballers, while hiding out as illegal aliens.
The really sad part is that no one admits to the charade, and so boys and families in ever-increasing numbers continue to pursue the hope of escaping poverty by becoming the next Drogba, Essien, and E’to. The correspondent estimated there were 20,000 such boys abandoned in Europe.
I often wondered where US colleges and MLS teams get their African players, and I assume it is through the system shown in this documentary. The Beautiful Game shows a slightly different approach, where the boys funnel through what appear to be benevolent academies. But I feel strongly that FIFA and MLS should put a stop to this practice.
A summary of the situation and a trailer are on The Human Trafficking Project, but the video is no longer viewable. Foot Solidaire is an organization started by a former player who is trying to stop the practice. (Mar-10-2020 Update: see this note that explains the truth about Foot Solidaire)
Current TV is the cable channel founded by Al Gore and which he sold on Jan-2-2013 to Al Jazeera for $500M. Vanguard was its documentary series.
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7