Soccer-Drogba teams up with FIFPRO, ILO to educate African players about fake agents

By Lori Ewing

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba says soccer players in Africa too often fall prey to fake agents peddling promises of fame and fortune.

Through his foundation, Drogba has teamed up with global soccer players union FIFPRO and the International Labour Organisation to raise awareness about the risks.

“Please, I need you to hear this,” former Ivory Coast international Drogba says in an animated campaign video to players. “Be very careful who you trust. Never trust the person who wants your money.”

FIFPRO recently surveyed 263 players from seven African countries and found that more than 70% were contacted unsolicited by someone who promised to help them switch clubs.

Most often, players approached were offered the chance of a trial (43%) or a contract with a club (39%) – and 56% did not get a trial promised to them, while 44% did not sign a contract they expected to sign.

“FIFPRO has heard many stories about players being approached by people pretending to be agents that promise to arrange a trial or a contract with a new club,” FIFPRO said in a release.

“The reality is less glamorous… In some of the worst cases players find themselves stranded abroad without money to return home.”

Young players in particular, Drogba said, are at risk in their eagerness to secure an agent.

“Your best agent is not the guy you may trust, the best agent you can have is your performances,” Drogba said on a video call this week with reporters. “This never lies. So the more you perform, the more clubs are coming to watch you play.

“What I see is a lot of kids looking for an agent to find me a club. That’s not how it works. It’s the performance that gets the attention of the clubs and good agents.”

As part of FIFA’s new regulations, as of Oct. 1, 2023 every soccer agent must have a FIFA licence, which requires passing an exam.

The campaign includes a pamphlet for players with practical advice such as how to identify a fake agent, what to look for in a contract, and a player’s rights as a foreign employee.

“Some of our friends paid their entire family savings, everything they had, but they never played abroad,” Drogba says in his animated video. “Instead, they were left stranded at an airport, or in a shabby space, under a stadium with 20 others, or living under a bridge or even thrown in jail in Asia.

“And I’m not talking about one player. But thousands just like you, with the same hopes and dreams who have been cheated and left with nothing… I don’t want you to be the next.”

The 45-year-old is one of the most successful African players in Premier League history. He scored 164 goals for Chelsea, capturing four league titles and the Champions League and twice winning the Premier League Golden Boot.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Toby Davis)