The curious case of Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba Adidas.jpg
Man Utd’s policy of uprooting underage Brazilian talent like Fabio and Rafael Da Silva and going after highly rated Dodo has come for scathing criticism by some, including legend Carlos Alberto who famously accused the Red Devils of “raping” Brazilian football.
The knock on all this poaching is that these players rarely get to play in their own clubs having been brought up the ranks before they are scouted by the big European clubs and enticed by the large sums of money. Usually the trend is to target impoverished neighbourhoods in Brazil or in the West African nations as they are repositories of abundant and cheap talent. The premature flight of these players have led to circumstances where they fail to live up to their potential. Anderson’s stunted growth as a player after being touted as a creative and attacking force comparable to Ronaldinho is often cited as an example. He is now a glorified mop up man for United.
Individuals like Carlos Alberto can frame it in overtly moral terms by using terms like “raping”. Eye catching and graphic but ultimately ineffective. However distasteful this practice maybe, it taps into the core of today’s economic reality. The selling clubs in his country do not object as they get recompensed money that they would rarely get to see and a young player gets an opportunity to burst onto the world stage. It is a winning situation for all parties involved.
However this completely transforms when terms like “trading in minors” are used. The case moves beyond the realm of the individual to a more complex and systemic human rights issue. It leaves a moral stain. The case of Paul Pogba crossing over to Man Utd raised the ire of Le Havre. In this case it is a club situated in the EU doing the objection and using words that raise a red flag.
“At a time when numerous parties – including at European Union level, governmental (level), or within Fifa or Uefa – are speaking out against the ‘trading of minors,’ Manchester United does not hesitate to uproot a 16-year-old kid.”
The EU has been in the forefront of this problem censuring countries in Eastern Europe and South Asia for sex worker and minor trafficking. The Pogba case creates double standards. It also taps into the UEFA”s suspicion of rapacious English clubs. Michel Platini has been disturbed by what is happening in his own backyard and has called for a end to this practice. UEFA’s member countries have agreed in principle to prevent the transfer of players under the age of 18 years and is in the process of introducing legislation.
“Paying a child to kick a ball is not that different from paying a child to work on a production line. Both amount to exploiting child labour. And when you pay a child or their parents to travel overseas, when you uproot them from their home environment, when you make them emotionally disorientated, I call that child trafficking.”
Le Havre’s have calculated that their reaction will see Platini wade into the Paul Pogba issue. It is small wonder that Man Utd have strongly objected to Le Havre’s statement saying that they complied with UEFA’s regulation. The backlash over Kiki Macheda’s transfer has been raised to another level and it reflects an awareness of UEFA’s recent work on stemming this seamier side of the transfer trade. To be fair, it was not just Man Utd chasing down Pogba but also Arsenal and Liverpool who wanted to sink their teeth into the French-Guinean defensive midfielder touted as the next Claude Makelele but it was Man Utd that beat them out. Which leads us to a perfect conspiracy theory. Who contacted Le Havre and told them to put out such red blooded words?

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4 comments on “The curious case of Paul Pogba
  1. The whole thing is interesting, but ultimately hypocritical. As a United fan, I’m personally against them buying these extremely young players, especially in situations like with Macheda, where he wasn’t even old enough to be signed professionally by Lazio.
    However, United are just doing what they can to stay at the top. As long as it’s legal, United, and every other top team, will continue to do this. Teams like Arsenal and United are kind of in the same boat here, as the debts they carry do not allow them to sign the biggest and best players in the world. Instead, they have to make them.
    As for the Brazilians, well, teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan have been doing this for years, and no one cared one way or the other. It’s only when an English team does it that it’s “raping.” I mean, Messi was signed by Barca as an 11 year old. Anderson had actually already been playing top flight football in Portugal when United signed him. As for the Da Silva twins, while it’s true they never made a professional debut in Brazil, going to United can be seen as a great opportunity for them. As you said, the clubs who originally own them get paid for them, so the “rape” allegation is not exactly a fair one.
    I hope UEFA step in to stop the transfer of players under a certain age, or at least make a rule that they must debut professionally for their club before moving, but until that law is passed, United should continue doing what they’re doing.

  2. Andrew, I think the point you make about Man Utd continuing on what they are doing is spot on. The problem UEFA should really be tackling is the imbalanced spending of Real and City. Till they institute real reforms and introduce transfer and salary caps, clubs will continue to look for cheaper and underage options.

  3. How is this a bad thing. These are typically kids from impoverished nations so their education might not be the best available. They move to England or Spain or wherever, they get to play a game they love, trained by professionals, perhaps an education,housed in better housing than they might have lived in their home nation, and too top it off they get paid, so they can help their family.
    I’m not sure about the readers but I live in a country where we strive to improve our situation and ourselves everyday so why wouldn’t a talented soccer player.

  4. Jonathan
    I think the case with Paul Pogba rests on the allegation that Man Utd did not contact Le Havre directly approaching him and bribing his parents to take him to England. Pogba comes from France, so this is not a case of a kid from an impoverished nation. There have been similar cases from Italy and Spain. In all the cases the club that train these kids get shafted as the big clubs poach without paying them any compensation. At the same time these clubs lose valuable talent that they have nurtured. That is the crux of the matter. English clubs have gained notoriety for doing this on a regular basis. That is why Chelsea have been docked by UEFA and their transfer privileges taken away.

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