Unmasking exploitative underbelly of football aspirations that left Davis Agesa stranded in Malaysia

© Capital FM/Timothy Olobulu

FOOTBALL Unmasking exploitative underbelly of football aspirations that left Davis Agesa stranded in Malaysia

Festus Chuma 09:43 - 29.08.2023

Football's exploitative underbelly preys on dreams, leaving aspiring talents stranded. It is time to change the game for good.

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia a city that pulsates with vibrant cultures and aspirations, a 27-year-old Kenyan footballer named Davis Agesa finds himself stranded.

His journey, like that of many others, started with a glimmer of hope and a promise of a revived football career. 

But now, he lives on the streets, surviving on alms from Nigerians and compassionate well-wishers. 

Agesa's story is one of countless others – a tale of exploitation, shattered dreams, and the insidious world of football talent scams.

Arriving in Malaysia from Kenya, Agesa's dreams were stoked by the prospect of playing football professionally again.

An Ivorian agent, promising him a chance to rejuvenate his career, acted as a beacon of hope. Little did Agesa know that this encounter would mark the beginning of a devastating journey into the depths of deception.

Agesa's last club affiliation was with Nairobi City Stars, a modest football club in Kenya. 

However, his aspirations pushed him to look beyond his homeland for opportunities that would elevate his career to new heights. 

With his sights set on an international breakthrough, Agesa embarked on a journey that would lead him into the web of scammers preying on the dreams of aspiring footballers.

The tactics employed by these malicious agents are as diverse as they are cunning. Armed with the power of social media, they target youngsters and their families, promising them a pathway to fame and success.

Often hailing from African nations, these vulnerable players, some as young as 17, are duped into believing that a bright future awaits them on foreign soil. 

Fake passports are provided, and the youngsters are dispatched to remote countries under the pretense of "waiting for visas."

Tragically, these visas rarely materialise, leaving the young players stranded and destitute in foreign lands. With no funds or identification, they become easy prey for a life of exploitation.

Many are forced into drug dealing, slavery, or even prostitution – their dreams of a professional football career reduced to mere fragments.

The scale of this issue is staggering, with as many as 15,000 vulnerable youngsters falling victim to these trafficking schemes each year.

This chilling statistic, recently uncovered by a Sunday People investigation, sheds light on the severity of the problem. 

Chris Eaton, FIFA's former head of security and a former Interpol agent, in a past interview, spoke to the gravity of the situation: "There are thousands of African youths tricked and even trafficked to European countries. They are all being attracted by the Premier League."

The English Premier League, synonymous with glamour and fame, often serves as the ultimate dream for these young players. Their ambitions to grace the same fields as their idols become an exploitable weakness. 

While English clubs have initiated campaigns to combat such crimes, the same cannot be said for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) or FIFA. In this context, the little that has been done by these governing bodies to address the issue becomes painfully evident.

Eaton underscores this lack of action, stating, "They are failing in their moral duty. They talk about the dream, but so often the dream turns into a nightmare." 

The dream that draws these young talents toward the prospect of a brighter future is turned against them, leading to harrowing consequences that extend far beyond the football pitch.

As Agesa and many others languish on the streets of Kuala Lumpur and in similar predicaments around the world, it is imperative that the world takes notice. 

The football community, as well as international organisations, must unite to address this issue at its core.

Awareness campaigns, stricter regulations for talent agents, and improved support systems for aspiring footballers are crucial steps toward dismantling the machinery of exploitation.

The world of football, with its spotlight on fame and fortune, can no longer turn a blind eye to the plight of these young dreamers. 

Their aspirations should be nurtured, not shattered by the greed of unscrupulous individuals.

It is time for change – a change that will give these young talents the opportunity to chase their dreams without falling prey to the nightmare that lurks behind false promises.