With stories about African footballers living large in Europe, there’s much desperation among up-and-coming talent on the continent to hit the jackpot abroad. This gives some “poacher agents” (and even clubs) the opportunity to exploit them and whittle away their career even before it starts. So, Ghana-based academy, Right to Dream, has set out to put an end to this.
Founded in 1999 by Tom Vernon, former head scout for Manchester United, the academy spends about $25,000 a year on each student’s education, training, welfare, travel, and equipment.
Realizing that most African footballers end their education once it seems they’ve taken the first step in becoming a professional, the academy starts with an education-first approach. So, the players continue to study while still training at an elite level. In fact, through the academy, most of them are offered scholarships to continue their education in Britain and the US while playing.
According to Vernon, through this approach, the young footballers are opened to other opportunities, and they also learn “the potential pitfalls of going abroad too soon.” Speaking with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, he said:
“It’s a constant battle to stop people exploiting kids. Without parental support or an educational base, a young player is basically going to get eaten alive, and that still happens on a regular basis.”
With heartbreaking stories out there (like that of a 14-year-old Liberian who was trafficked to Laos and forced to sign a contract), young footballers have to be more woke in their quest to “blow”.