« Le Prodige », the book that denounces the trafficking of child footballers

7:45 a.m., October 10, 2022

A promising 12-year-old player, Milo nicknamed himself CL01, like Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7), idol of thousands of children like him. His grandfather watches him kick the ball from the sidelines in Valparaíso, Chile’s third largest city. He finds his grandson «  fast » and wants to negotiate a price, as for a commodity: 100,000 pesos, or a hundred euros. His interlocutor promises to send him to a European team and shakes his hand to close the deal. This scene did take place and concludes The Prodigy (ed. Marchialy), French translation on sale Wednesday from Ninos futbolistasa survey of the South American market for child footballers published in 2013.

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Buy one «  Young talent »

“This traffic is unfortunately very current and global”laments Juan Pablo Meneses, the Chilean author of the book, who has multiplied the trips and meetings to document this aspect «  deemed glamorous » of child labor. In South America, where most of the professionals from the European championships come from, or in Africa, «  trafficking is getting worse because everyone wins”. All the clubs have dreamed of unearthing “the new Messi”. Because of this fantasy, «  it was then possible to buy a young talent of 10 or 12 years old for a few hundred euros”discovered the journalist, who asks about this widespread practice the word «  slavery ».


Trafficking is getting worse because everyone wins


The International Federation (Fifa) has tried to regulate the transfers of minors; this has only encouraged clubs to open football schools on site to  » to pre-empt «  the most promising. All that remains is to circumvent the legislation to bring the hope in question to Spain, England or France, for example by finding a job for one of the parents. The first time he dared to ask about a kid in shorts, Meneses got «  fear of being reported to the police”. Instead, a family invited him to watch video montages of the son. «  We spoke shamelessly of its value. These people were really expecting me to make an offer. »


These people were expecting me to make an offer


What dismayed the investigator the most was having come across «  very few people are shocked at the idea of ​​buying or selling a human life”. He assures him: sports journalists have hinted that they would gladly participate in the purchase of a child  » really good « .

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A controversial investigation

Meneses is still surprised by readers who have seen in his book a «  manual » bad practices rather than «  denunciation ». Its objective was to« open a chat»but in «  fanatic » football, he guesses why it didn’t work: «  We are all delighted that a child footballer gives victory to our team but we refuse to imagine what this industry hides. » Or to think of fate, sometimes tragic, «  of all those who failed to imitate Neymar or Messi ».


This traffic is unfortunately very current and global


After the publication, Fifa invited him to a congress. He spoke with leaders saying «  astonished » by content. «  I don’t really believe they were. », he reframes. Even less that they looked for a way to end this «  balloon colonialism. We will not know if Milo was added to the list of collateral victims.  » People keep asking me what happened to him. »regrets Juan Pablo Meneses, before formulating a wish: «  We should first worry about the mechanism that creates children like him. »

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