A New Slave Trade? Europe's Thirst for Young African Footballers

By Christoph Biermann and Maik Grossekathöfer

Part 3: The Need to Make a Profit

A student remains at the school for six to nine years, depending on the age at which he was accepted. The parents sign a contract, and the training, instruction, room and board are free. Guillou spent €1.6 million to build the academy in Bamako, which costs €165,000 a year to run.

To recoup his money, Guillou has to make a profit when he eventually sells his students to European clubs. Like a fund manager, he depends on his investments increasing in value. That is his interpretation of the globalization of football.

Guillou has also operated a football academy in Thailand since 2005. Arsenal is an investor and has acquired an option to sign the school's two biggest talents. Guillou likes to work with Arsenal, because the club is "good advertising and collateral for the bank."

He trains Thai boys, as well as Africans from Ivory Coast, at the academy in Chonburi, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Bangkok. Guillou brought the Ivorian boys to Asia four years ago. One of them was only eight at the time.

'Clean Conscience'

"I have a clean conscience," says Guillou, speaking on the balcony of his school in Bamako. He insists that he is not breaking any rules or violating any laws, because he hasn't sold the children to a club. Besides, he adds, the parents gave their consent. "And culture shock isn't a problem, either. Africans can adjust easily anywhere."

There are politicians who call Guillou a human trafficker. Certain officials at football's international governing body, FIFA, also have a low opinion of him and accuse him of sucking Africa dry. For Lennart Johansson, the former president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the business with African talent is "child abduction and nothing else."

But for the boys in Bamako, Guillou is someone who can help them achieve a better life.

Treated Like a Commodity

Souleymane Diomande is sitting in the grass after a training session. He is 15 and, until a month ago, was still at the academy in Thailand, where he spent three years. He saw his family once during that time. He returned to Africa because his passport had expired and he was unable to get a new visa.

Of course he missed Africa, he says, "but I got to know another country, and now I can speak English and Thai. I would go anywhere to get to Europe in the end."

Doesn't he feel that he is being treated like a commodity?

"Well, so what?" says Diomande. "Monsieur Guillou is helping me so that I can earn money later on."

Article...
  • For reasons of data protection and privacy, your IP address will only be stored if you are a registered user of Facebook and you are currently logged in to the service. For more detailed information, please click on the "i" symbol.
  • Post to other social networks

Comments
Discuss this issue with other readers!
Share your opinion!
Keep track of the news

Stay informed with our free news services:

All news from SPIEGEL International
Twitter | RSS
All news from World section
RSS

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH



Graphic: Origin of foreign players in Europe's top clubs Zoom
DER SPIEGEL

Graphic: Origin of foreign players in Europe's top clubs



European Partners
Presseurop

Politiken

Corriere della Sera

Report on Cost of Politics

Conte Says Farewell to Juve


Facebook
Twitter