It is a proud time to be a young African soccer player. Not only was Africa hosting its first ever World Cup, but for the first time, some of the sport's biggest stars are African. Many of them grew up playing on fields, dreaming of fame and fortune on soccer's biggest stage. Everyone want to go to Europe. That is the hope. But there are those who are exploiting that hope. There is definitely trafficking of young people, which are bold and sold like cattle.
Thousands of young players are being lured from their homelands. Their families conned out of what little savings they might have by predatory agents, making promises that will almost certainly go unfulfilled. The boys are often abandoned, broke and alone. Africa is ripe because Africa is poor. Soccer is glory and soccer is money. Mariana van Zeller travelled from the dirt fields of West Africa, to the immigrant ghettos of Morocco, and finally to the Black Market games of Paris, in search of soccer's lost boys.
Francis Tamba is a 17-year-old, from the West African nation of Guinea Conakry. He's a soccer player, or to the rest of the world, a footballer. He prays to become like Didier Drogba and one day to play for Chelsea. That's his biggest dream in life. Drogba was a goal scoring machine for Chelsea in England. He's a global superstar and a millionaire in many times over. His success has fueled the ambition of an entire generation of young African's, including Francis.
Francis thought he'd taken the first big step towards his dream of soccer stardom. While training in his native Guinea, he was approached by a soccer agent who said Francis was so talented that he could get him a tryout with Atletico Madrid, one of the big teams in Spain. He told him that he should come to Morocco and later he will continue on to Spain. Francis says, "It was the happiest day of his life," but there was a catch… the agent demanded an upfront fee of $4,000 for travel and other expenses. Pinning the family's hopes of Francis, his father agreed to pay. But when Francis arrived in Morocco, the agent disappeared.