Here, we tell the story of how four Ghanaian footballers were scammed by two football officials of the Zimbabwe football association (ZIFA). Because of this, three of the players were stuck in Zimbabwe for more than seven months, living like “beggars”.
“What was promised to be a dream, turned out to be a nightmare,” one of the players, Francis Adjetey, told FIFPRO.
Earlier this year, Adjetey was looking for a new club. His agent from Cameroon informed him that Zimbabwean club Khaya Africa wanted to sign him for a monthly salary between 1,000 to 1,500 USD and would pay him a signing on fee of at least 10,000 USD. He was told he only needed to pay his trip from Ghana, but those costs would be reimbursed by the club.
Adjetey couldn’t find any information about Khaya Africa on the internet. When he called the telephone number on the club’s invitation, he spoke with two ZIFA officials who said they were the chairman and administrator of Khaya Africa. They told him it was a new, ambitious club and wanted to sign him and three extra players.
When Adjetey and three other players arrived in Zimbabwe in early February, they soon realized that Khaya Africa didn’t exist. They were brought to lower league club Lowveld United, they had to stay in someone’s home and had to pay the officials for “logistics and permits”.
Initially, the players stayed. They hoped their performances would get them to South Africa. But after an argument with the officials, they wanted to return to Ghana. However, only one player managed to leave in time before Covid-19 lockdown.
Adjetey and the two other players left behind experienced many difficulties as they had no money for food, accommodation and new visa.
“We never told people at home, because you feel ashamed. Your first time travelling and then this happens,” said Adjetey, who added that his agent in Cameroon did not respond to his messages. “He never showed he cared.”
In the end, Adjetey got in touch with the Professional Footballers Association of Ghana, which involved Footballers Union Zimbabwe. Together with ZIFA, the player unions arranged for the players to return home, in September.
“I’ve learned a lesson,” Adjetey said. “If you are a footballer and someone says he can help you, but wants money first, then I advise you not to pay him.”
“If you have an offer, contact the right people, such as the PFAG in Ghana, and they will give you advice.”
ZIFA banned the officials from football for five years and ordered them to pay each player USD 1,300. The players are still waiting to be paid.
ZIFA said the pair acted like human traffickers: “Young and innocent footballers were plucked from their families and homes and further swindled through misrepresentation, fraud and forgery, and dumped in a foreign land with no proper accommodation, medical aid or care and turned into beggars in a foreign land.”
Contact your local player union for advice if you are unsure about a contract offer.