‘‘Even In Football, There Is Human Trafficking’’; Ambassador John Fashanu Explodes

Ears were let loose when a team from Devatop Centre for African Development, an NGO with its head office in Abuja saddled with the responsibility and passion to combat the evil/crime of Human Trafficking across the globe paid him a courtesy visit. The visit was made ahead of the upcoming event for the commemoration of the World day on Anti-Human Trafficking to be marked by Devatop on July 20, 2017 at the National Human Right Commission, Abuja. The visiting team included Joseph Chidebere Osuigwe-the Executive Director and Arinze Egemonye who is the Project Manager.

According to the ‘Big Fash’ as popularly called, about 40 percent of the teenage Youth who leave the shores of African Country, with a huge promise by the so-called sponsors and unlicensed academies end up being trafficked and abandoned in Europe in the name of search for a club to sign them to the European leagues. Report also has it that every year, over 700 teenage Cameroonians are trafficked to Europe in search of clubs to play for with promises of big pay packages and they end up as victims without any forms of compensation. However, many have narrated their ordeal as families went about borrowing monies in form loans and advances to sponsor their children and wards. Families and communities borrow huge sums of money to pay to the unlicensed soccer academies in Africa with dreams of traveling to Europe and playing for major soccer clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea etc.

According to Big Fash, these kids are shipped to Europe and Italy with the belief that they will get clubs for sign-ins and most times it turns out they were set up and exploited by criminal elements specifically out for money and exploitation. This he lamented is awful and must be exposed and stopped.

According to the US victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, Exploitation of African Youth Players 6, 2000; human trafficking can be defined as (a) the recruitment, harbouring, transporting, supplying, or obtaining a person for the purposes of labour, or services through the use of force, coercion, fraud for the purpose of involuntary servitude or slavery; or (b) sex trafficking in which a commercial act is induced by force, coercion, fraud or in which the person so induced to perform sex act is under the ages of 18. This act however gives the court guidelines to punish the criminal perpetrators who violate this act.

According to Farrell and Fahy(2009), human trafficking was an international social problem and how it violated women’s rights, then over time human trafficking definition changed and started to be defined more as criminal problem. Then because of increased fears of terrorism, the definition was re-defined to act on growing fears of security threats and how to protect our border (Farrell & Fahy, 2009).

However, conflicts had existed on the differences between human smuggling and human trafficking. But the US government has defined Human smuggling as ‘‘the facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation, or unapproved entry of a person(s) across an international border, in violation of one or more countries laws, either for good or through deception such as the use of fraudulent documents’’ (Distinction between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking, 2006).

It has become very important that the orientation about the perception from the media towards reporting only on the sexual exploitation side of trafficking needs to be changed. According to Ambassador John Fashanu, if the media is only reporting on sexual exploitation, then people will only think that is the only kind of human trafficking going on. He insisted that, ‘‘the time to expose human trafficking in football is NOW’’. This advocacy however touches on how a clear definition of human trafficking is needed in order to create effective policies and legislation on trafficking in persons.

This type of exploitation of kids and soccer in Africa does have historical roots. Africa has been conquered countless times by countries looking to use it for the natural resources it provides as well as for the human labour found there, Kara (2010) points out that in 1502 the Portuguese built one of the first slave trading posts in Africa. Now these unlicensed soccer academies are not the only academies found in Africa, there are licensed ones and they do produce very good talent.

Human trafficking awareness is the underlying goal because if people don’t know about the issue, no one will do anything about it. Due to the fact that only certain types of trafficking such as sex exploitation in most times are presented in the media, the media leaves other kinds of trafficking. However other certain types of trafficking such as these African soccer kids that are trafficked and misled is not presented in the media. The big Fash however took us down memory lane on the happenings and dangers involved in Trafficking in persons in the sports world and not just sex trafficking alone.

According to a study done by a team of UN International Labour Organization members as reported by Guido Christopher, this backs up Feingold’s statement (Feigngold 2015) about how sex labour is over represented, that of the 9.5 million victims of forced labour in Asia, fewer than 10% where trafficked for prostitution or sex labour (Belser, Cock & Mehran, 2005, p. 10). This report/statistics usually comes as a result of ideological beliefs of the people reporting them according to Sharpiro in Machionni (2010).

The purpose of this report is aimed further at sensitizing people of the existence of human trafficking as obviously people may not basically know about human trafficking in sports world. Ambassador John Fashanu has been in the forefront of the fight against Trafficking in Persons and insists the world should know the dangers associated with this crime and how unlicensed football academies traffic teenagers to the Europe in the name of greener pastures in football. According to him, this is a global problem.

However, because most people have never ever heard of human trafficking in sports, this could be a wake-up call for the government in places where this occurs to ‘‘Take Action’’ and even try and develop statistics to further gain understanding of how wide spread exploitation of African youth soccer players it is.

Ambassador John Fashanu (The Big Fash) is a Football Legend and a Former Wimbledon FC Captain. He is a Devatop Ambassador and so passionate about the Fight against Human Trafficking across the globe.

Devatop Centre for Africa Development (DCAD) is a youth-based non-profit organisation that is focused on combating human trafficking, gender –based violence, providing educational support to vulnerable children and equipping young people and women to be agents of national development. DCAD is registered with Nigeria Corporate Affairs and has partnered with United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) and National Human Rights Commission to train more than 5000 women and young people on how to combat human trafficking. The Head Office is located at no 22 Koforidua Street, Zone 2 Wuse, Abuja.

Devatop aims at sensitizing the general public on the dangers of Trafficking in Person and also hopes to use this all important event to raise about N22.65M to implement the Second Phase of The Academy for the Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (TAPHOM) Project.

During the first phase of the TAPHOM, Devatop trained over 120 young people from 6 states as Anti-Human Trafficking Advocates, and within nine months, they impacted over 6000 people, reported and identified three victims. One of the victims, a 17-year old girl who was trafficked from Abuja to Kano, was rescued. We have also impacted and reached out to over 200,000 people through digital and offline campaign.