The International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with former Ivorian international footballers including Didier Drogba and the International Federation of Professional Footballers’ Associations (FIFPRO), is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with the emigration of young footballers.
The objective of this campaign, which comes a few days after the signing of the first global agreement on working conditions and rights of professional football players between the social partners of the sector, is to raise awareness among young Ivorian footballers of the risks of discrimination, exploitation and human trafficking linked to poorly prepared migration.
The campaign will inform potential migrants about the risks but also about their rights by giving them useful tools and advice. Thus, young football players will have a better knowledge of the means at their disposal to build a professional project in good conditions.
Ivorian international footballer, Didier Drogba, and three other retired international players, Geremi Njitap, Didier Otokoré and Marc Zoro, will lead the campaign, exchanging directly with young footballers and distributing information kits that will also be promoted via social networks.
“Africa is proud of its world-class footballers. Their talent and success is an inspiration to many young Africans. Unfortunately for every great success, there are many migrant players who see their dreams shattered because they can’t get into a professional club and have to give up top-level sport,” said Didier Drogba.
“These young people can face great difficulties. Alone in a foreign country, without family, without a network of acquaintances, they are therefore totally vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. If their project abroad is not successful they may find themselves with no income, no means of subsistence, no social protection and in an irregular situation.
The risks of unprepared migration
Every year, just over six thousand young people migrate from West Africa to foreign countries to join football academies or play in professional football leagues. While in rare cases the migration of young players leads to a successful career in football, many end up at clubs with very few resources, or are forced to seek work in other sectors for which they are poorly prepared or trained.
In these situations, they may face difficult working and living conditions and suffer multiple forms of discrimination. The most vulnerable players, especially those under 18, may end up in football academies where they receive little education or vocational training and are at greater risk of abuse and injury.
If they become injured or underperform, they are left with few job prospects and no opportunity to acquire alternative vocational training. In the worst cases, young footballers end up in the hands of human traffickers or unscrupulous agents who exploit them.
“Living your dream also means defending your rights. This is why the International Labour Organisation, alongside FIFPRO and the Didier Drogba Foundation, has mobilised to promote decent work for young professional football players,” said Frédéric Lapeyre, Director of the ILO Country Office for Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo.