Soka Afrika: Two footballers take two different journeys


Soka Afrika is probably the first documentary that really tackles the problem of trafficking of young footballers from Africa to the European leagues through the story of two aspiring footballers who set out to find their fame and fortune and end up taking very different journeys. It won the best film at the Kicking and Screening film festival in NYC and London this year.
As this Soccernet article points out that one of the big motivations for Simon Laub, the producer of Soka Afrika was to draw attention to the yeoman work done by organizations like Foot Solidaire set up so to protect these youngsters from unscrupulous agents. Many poor families end up going bankrupt paying fees and airfares for their son on the promise of lucrative contracts from clubs which never materialize. One of the big projects is to develop some sort of database on legitimate agents who can be trusted to do what is right for those seeking to move overseas.
The organization also rehabilitates those end up stranded in Europe. Many of them become demoralized and lose interest in pursuing a football career. The stigma of being labeled a failure also prevents them from returning home. Playing football at a local club boosts self esteem. The family is counseled to accept the player back after months or years spend in an alienating place.
All this requires funding and so far Foot Solidaire has had to scrape by through donations. The founder, Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, a former Cameroonian international, is hopeful that increased exposure to their work will spark an interest from FIFA or UNICEF who should rightly be concerned by this form of human trafficking.

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