The STAR Project is an awareness campaign and initiative of TBD Sports Management which is geared towards educating young African football players and their parents about the existence of criminals posing as football agents in order to extort money from unsuspecting youngsters.
Mode of Operation
Young players are contacted by 'agents' and promised football trials in Europe, UK and the United States. They are asked for considerable sums of money and are told it covers medicals, insurance and the processing of visa applications. Once the money has been transferred either into a bank account or via western union, the 'agent' disappears and the player is left with neither a football trial nor the money. These conmen usually target their victims using popular social networking tools like Facebook and twitter; and in majority of cases use names of authorised agents culled from the FIFA website.
Aims & Objectives
- to protect young African players from being exploited
- to protect Africa's next generation of football stars
- to educate young African players about the dangers of not adopting the STAR approach
- to make young African players and their parents aware of these fake agent operations
- educates young players and provides a broader knowledge of the industry
- creates an awareness (to players and their parents) about the operation of fake agents (for instance, signs to look out for)
- a reduction in player trafficking to Europe (and elsewhere)
- provides young footballers a safe, smooth and incident free course in their quest to develop
- through the awareness created, fake agent activity is exposed thus reducing the chances of future success
- a saving in money (for the player) which would have been paid to the fake agents
STAR is an acronym for Stop, Think, Ask and then React.
S stands for STOP
Do not make a hasty decision
When approached (either in person or online) by someone claiming to be an agent, the first thing to do is to stop and take a deep breath!
T stands for THINK
Does the offer sound realistic?
Take some time out to think about what you have been told. Do not rush your decision. If the 'agent' tries to put pressure on you then that could be your first sign that he/she is not genuine.
A stands for ASK
Never be afraid to ask questions
Some useful questions are:
- Are you up to the level of the club that you are being promised a trial with? For instance, if you are playing for a second division club in Africa, are you up to the level to play in a top European club? This is probably a harsh question but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind
- Would a club in a top European league be recruiting players via Facebook and Twitter? This would be an extremely unlikely approach
- If the club in question is in the UK, do you qualify for a UK Work Permit? i.e. do you play for your national team and is your country in the top 70 of the FIFA rankings? If not, then you will probably not get a work permit. Please see my previous article on UK Work Permit requirements - http://www.tbdmanagement.com/in-her-own-words/130-permission-uk
- If you send money to an agent for a visa application, how will they know your details to fill in the forms?
- Visit the website of the club in question and see if there is any mention of trials. If not contact them and tell them you would like to verify the information you have been given. Some clubs now have warning messages on their websites about fake trial invitations
- Are these offers being sent through email addresses with hotmail, yahoo and gmail extensions? For instance, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com. If so, then they are probably not coming from the club. If someone was contacting you from a club like Sunderland AFC, they would most likely use an email address ending in @safc.com
- Ask others in the business for advice or contact your local Football Association
R stands for REACT
If it all sounds too good to be true, then it probably is
Once you have asked yourself all the above questions, you should be able to work out whether the information and invitation are real.