When Stade de Reims and Zimbabwe midfielder Marshall Munetsi became a member of FIFPRO’s Global Player Council, he among other things wanted to help FIFPRO raise awareness about the danger of people pretending to be agents.
By Marshall Munetsi
I first heard about fake agents in 2015 when I was playing at Orlando Pirates in South Africa. One day, three players from Nigeria arrived at the club’s training ground with their luggage. They were supposed to meet their agent at the club, but he wasn’t there. They thought they had a contract with Orlando Pirates, but the club knew nothing about it.
They spent all their family’s money to pay the agent and get to Cape Town, expecting to get a contract. Instead, they were looking at the prospect of being thrown onto the streets. I, together with some other people at the club, helped them get back to Nigeria.
From that moment on, I realised that those instances really happen; that someone is paying money to get a trial, that someone is paying money without being guaranteed a contract.
Later, I heard more stories about players being scammed by people pretending to be agents. One of my Orlando Pirates team-mates sent money to a fake agent for travel, accommodation, and everything else. He thought he was getting a trial in Spain but when he arrived at the airport, there was nobody there.
My team-mate was contacted by this ‘agent’ via Instagram. He saw photos of this person with big-name players and thought he was a reputable agent. Apparently, he didn’t realise that you can just go to a stadium and after the game ask a player for a photo – and then put that photo on Instagram and pretend to be the representative of the player.
Recently in Zimbabwe, an academy promised some kids and their families that they would change their lives. The government had to intervene to bring these eight children back home from Dubai where they were trapped for months. These are the kind of situations we are talking about.
A lot needs to be done to raise awareness of how these fake agents – and even fake academies – are destroying people’s lives. People are working hard to earn a living and then they lose it in an instant just because somebody is promising their kid that they might be the next Didier Drogba or Samuel Eto’o.
We cannot talk about a problem anymore; I would rather call it a crisis. There are people out there who are seeing what Kylian Mbappe is earning and are then wondering what his agent will be getting. This pushes people to promise contracts to young people in Africa, who are willing to pay money to try and be like Mbappe or Sadio Mane.
I get a lot of calls from players. Since I joined FIFPRO’s Global Player Council in January this year, 40 to 50 people have called me to ask for assistance. I try to help them, but I also refer them to our unions, who can help players with proper advice as well.
Players should also take better care of themselves. For example, sometimes they are afraid that you tell them the offer they received from an agent is not good. Sometimes we don’t want to hear additional information. But we players have to do our own research too, otherwise we are in the wrong as well. There are so many people and unions that you can ask for advice, and you can search online to check if the agent is verified, which will only take 10 minutes. Players have to take their own responsibility.
I was lucky. There were also people who tried to cheat me, who sent me messages on social media. But my father, who was a policeman, always taught me to do things by the book, to double check everything, to verify all information, and that I needed to have a copy of my contract.
When I was at Orlando Pirates and I didn’t have an agent, I received so many offers from all sorts of people who said they could help me get to Europe. There were so many messages, but I never paid attention to them. In the end, Orlando helped me connect with Wasserman, who are still my agent.
I have talked about this before when I was in Zimbabwe during holidays. Together with Desmond Maringwa, the president of the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe, I went to visit schools and clubs, because most people in our country don’t have social media. I can post about it, but not everyone will know about it. I hope many other players will help me with raising awareness.