Monday, November 5, 2007

The new African football scam

The new African football scam

I was on a flight last month from Glasgow back home to Marseille, and there being not many Blacks on the flight we obviously sat next to one-another, in the same aisle. Anyway I got talking to this guy, and as we exchanged pleasantries and realised that his Auntie cousin boyfriend is my long lost third Uncle. Small world eh? He explained that he was in Glasgow attending trials at a variety of Scottish football clubs. When he mentioned football I switched off the laptop, and stopped watching the latest episode of Coronation Street. The pifalls of working away from home. As we delved deeper into conversation, explaining the details and clubs he held trials with. The main thing that startled me was when I asked Kojo his age. Now having been sat next to him for the best part of 45 minutes, I pictured Kojo to be between 27 and 35. His enthusiasm to make it, impressed me, but he was no spring chicken. Then he told me, he had told the clubs he was 21, I nearly pressed the button to call the stewardess. Twenty-one! You could see the grey hairs in his nose and under his chin. We even shared a joke about Grecian 2000. I had to ask how could he pass for 21. It was at this point he explained the 'Obafemi' scam. Now being a bit of a football guru, I know who Obafemi Martins is and how he had a long career in Italy prior to arriving on the UK shores, at Newcastle, complaining of the cold, the Geordie accent and the lack of a decent foo-foo in town.

Kojo told me, and this is only speculation, allegedly, don’t-take-to-court-sort-of-way, that Obafemi is actually 41 and arrived in Italy when he 35, claming that he was an undiscovered 22 protégé. Since then thousands of men from Nigeria have managed to ply there trade in Europe. Notably, Kanu, (47) Kolo Touroe (39) Jay Jay Okocha (45) and others. He also mentioned that at Portsmouth, there is a creche of young Nigerians, because everyone's knows Harry Redknapp preference for the darker skin footballer. The governments around the globe, cottoned on to the previous 419 scam involving sending letters and emails to people requesting financial aid. But playing football seems to be more profitable and should one exceed, a week's salary in Europe is paramount to feeding a village for six whole months, including goats and sheep.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Well I could, as I have worked alongside and have enough Nigerian friends to know how they think and act. But none the less, mystified that this was being adopted by thousands. And if this is the case in Nigeria it's only a matter of time before Zambia, Zaire, Congo and Ethiopia start to copy-cat. The premiership could end up with dozens of African footballers who we think are no more than 25, only to find out they are in fact older than our Dads. Oh, how we love our African brother’s.....


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