Young footballers scammed by fake agents during their dream of European glory.

Many young football enthusiasts aspire to a career in Europe, a goal that unfortunately benefits some scammers who exploit their dream by offering them fake invitations to trials in exchange for money. These criminals prey on the hopes and aspirations of young footballers, promising them a golden opportunity to achieve their sporting ambitions. They present themselves as intermediaries capable of connecting them with prestigious clubs and renowned coaches. In exchange for a sum of money, often exorbitant, they promise young players a trial at a reputable European club, tantalizing them with prospects of professional success and glory on the field. These scammers, often very persuasive and manipulative, take advantage of the ignorance and vulnerability of young players who dream of an international career. They know exactly how to play with their emotions and aspirations, offering them enticing opportunities and promises of success. Unfortunately, once the money is received, the scammers disappear, leaving behind disappointed and financially ruined young players. These victims of the scam then face the harsh reality, with no career prospects or financial resources to pursue their passion. This situation is all the more concerning as it affects millions of young footballers around the world, who see their dreams shattered and their confidence deeply shaken. It is therefore essential to raise awareness and inform young players and their families about these fraudulent practices, in order to protect them from these scams and safeguard their sporting and financial future.

Every year, many young footballers go to professional club training centers with invitations, only to find closed doors. Clubs prefer to remain discreet on this subject, but it is evident that many players hope to showcase their talents in European clubs, only to be rejected in the end. This situation is often due to fake trial invitations, offered by fraudulent “agents” in exchange for a varying sum of money. Franceinfo: sport investigated this phenomenon by responding to several ads under the identity of a young Cameroonian player.

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On December 14, 2023, Buna, a 19-year-old Albanian, presents himself at FC Nantes’ training center, invitation in hand, for a trial. The document seems authentic, with the club’s logo, a stamp, and a signature, but the imperfect syntax reveals its falsity. The letter states that “the professional team of Football Club de Nantes wishes to inform you of its interest in you” and ends with “I beg you, sir, and your sport faithfully.” Of course, this invitation is fake, and Buna is denied access to the training center. His dream shatters, and he hears nothing more from his agent, who claimed to be Danish but whose bank account, where Buna deposited nearly 400 euros, is located in Cameroon.

Hadji, a former Guinean U17 international, was also a victim of this Cameroonian agent in 2022, when he was 20 years old and played for a first division club in Guinea. “An agent approached me. He told me I was a good defender and that he could help me play in the third division in Croatia,” he tells Franceinfo: sport. However, Hadji had doubts and decided to discuss it with his mother. After a conversation with the agent, his mother was convinced and encouraged Hadji to seize this opportunity. She found the necessary money, about 10,000 euros, which Hadji handed over to the agent. The agent arranged a trip for him to Egypt, where Hadji was supposed to obtain his visa, and then a flight to Croatia. However, upon arriving in Croatia, no one came to pick him up at the airport. The agent booked him a week in a hotel, promising that the club would contact him soon. But days passed, and Hadji received no call. He tried to contact the agent, but the agent blocked his number. Left on his own, with no money or shelter, Hadji slept in train stations and eventually decided to go to France, to Lyon, as a fan of Olympique Lyonnais.

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After a long bus journey, Hadji reached Lyon, but without papers, he was deported back to Croatia. Along with other migrants, he decided to return to France and walked for several days through Slovenia and Italy, with little food. Finally, he made it to Nice and managed to reach the Lyon region, where he still lives irregularly, in an abandoned house without heating. He learned with sadness that his mother was being threatened in Guinea because she couldn’t repay the money she borrowed to fund Hadji’s journey. Unfortunately, Hadji could not help her because he didn’t have the means, and he couldn’t go to the police as he had no papers.

Amane Dramera, founder of the association Dream Ferry, experienced a similar situation 15 years ago. After risking his life to cross the Mediterranean in a canoe, he found himself with no opportunities in the world of football. He decided to create his association to help players victimized by unscrupulous agents. According to him, combating this scourge involves awareness campaigns, such as those conducted by Fifpro, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization and the Didier Drogba Foundation, aimed at the African public.

Youth African players are particularly vulnerable to scams by fake agents, mainly due to their dream of becoming professional footballers and the lack of resources to enter big academies. Jean-Flaubert Nono, general manager of the Football School of Brasseries du Cameroun, one of the best academies on the continent, confirms that players are often approached by real or fake agents. His school raises players’ awareness of the external environment and advises them not to believe everything they are told.

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Thomas Buanec, a genuine French agent, also fell victim to identity theft by scammers on social media. He explains that fake agents use his photos and name to lend themselves credibility. Franceinfo: sport investigated one of these fake agents, who posed as a licensed French agent and demanded a 320 euro deposit to process a case.

This scam phenomenon affects many young African footballers who dream of making a career in Europe. They often find themselves helpless, without money or papers, left to fend for themselves. It is therefore essential to raise awareness among players and their families about these dangers and to fight against these scams by pursuing fake agents and implementing protective measures for young players.

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