They boys have been promised the earth. They end up penniless, homeless, sleeping rough, talented, but not talented enough.But they exist because there is no bottom to the depth of human savagery in making money out of children, and no end to the greed of clubs like Barcelona.Their La Masia academy was considered to be the best youth academy in Europe, and it maintained that standard because it had a non-stop array of young players knocking at the door. For Barcelona it didn’t matter where they came from, and what exploitation was happening to bring this stream to the club’s doors. The agents loved them – because Barcelona never asked questions.
The rules from Fifa were there for all to see – Barcelona could not sign any player under 18 from outside the EU unless one of the parents already had a residency and job near the club – not least to look after the child and to provide for the child if the child did not meet the standards required.
But Barcelona, aided by the Spain FA ignored the rules, and got a reputation for taking on children, no matter what, no questions ask. And not just from Africa. Seung-Ho Paik, from South Korea was one the children recruited by Barcelona illegally. We can incidentally see the same gung-ho attitudes seemingly running through the club over tax matters, if the recent outburst of court cases is anything to go by.
And seemingly as with tax, Barcelona didn’t do child trafficking just once, but repeatedly.
Of course Barcelona may not be the only club that doesn’t mind trafficking in children – there may well be others, but so far the evidence is not there.
But from the moment Untold started following this story and giving it lots of coverage (while most of the rest of the football world remained silent) we got emails from people saying “Arsenal do just the same”. No one has ever provided a scrap of evidence however. That’s how it goes. If Arsenal were guilty of this I would condemn them just as much. At some point support finishes, and for me that would be way over the line. But there is not the slightest scrap of evidence and the allegations look like childish tit for tat comments from people supporting Barcelona who are still in denial about the enormity of the crime committed by the club.
Meanwhile the story is that in some European cities there are now significant numbers of teenagers around, brought over by agents who abandon them if they can’t get a placement. But clearly a few have been getting placed somewhere somehow. There are, it seems, other clubs as dirty as Barcelona out there.
Of course the agents are the ultimate criminals in this, working the young players as pimps work prostitutes, taking the money, paying them a pittance, ditching them when they are no longer of use.
But there has to be clubs willing to deal with such players and agents for the whole thing to work, just like there has to be men who will use street prostitutes.
As for the children, as the reality hits they are left without a means to get back home, even if they wanted to – and often they don’t want to go back and admit that they screwed up. After all, their parents probably put all of their meagre possessions in paying the fake agents to get the child to Europe in the first place.
Now there are even what are called Schools of Football Excellence in Africa which claim they are set up by the clubs in Europe, to find young talent and bring it to the clubs. It is all a con and all a sham and there is now evidence that some of the kids end up as boat people, abandoned off the coast of Itlay. And the supporting of this trafficking is the eternal shame that Barcelona faces and which football supporters should never allow to be forgotten.
The Metropolitan Police in London are now becoming involved trying to liaise with countries in West Africa. But guess what – the FA don’t want to know. They don’t have an officer in charge of stopping trafficking happening in England, they don’t monitor cases of child trafficking here, and they don’t have anyone who actually is available to liaise with the police.
Child trafficking? Not our problem.
Meanwhile fake agents flourish all over Europe, charging vulnerable young men every penny they have, with the promise of pushing their credentials to the clubs. Of course they take the money and run.
So, if the inept, pathetic and hopeless FA can’t even put a man on the case, who can. The UN certainly is taking action, but it works through established agencies, which means…. Fifa.
But Fifa has fractionally redeemed itself given Fifa’s remarkable insistence on dealing with the Barcelona case following some whistle blowing in the Spain FA. Maybe they can be persuaded to do it again.
Except that Fifa is answerable to no one. Switzerland has granted it immunity from its own laws on corruption. If they are not doing anything about the death of people developing the world cup stadia in Qatar are they going to act to help unknown young men lost and abandoned?
Well, maybe not, but something did make them act against Barcelona.
Which leaves just one agency that could take action to help stop this situation. The media.
So why does the press leave this alone? Because Barcelona is big news bringing in lots of readers. Revealing the truth about Barcelona is not big news. In fact not news at all. Best not go there. Let’s run stories about Barcelona selling players now even though we know they can’t because of the transfer ban throughout this year. And by 2016, well, no one will remember, will they?
Once more, football is betrayed.
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