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FIFPro has alerted FIFA that the current Transfer Matching System (FIFA TMS) does not guarantee the protection of minor players. The world players’ union strongly urges the game’s global governing body to fix this problem in an expedient manner. FIFPro has uncovered a trafficking practice perpetrated by a Laotian premier league club which has victimised numerous Liberian minors. The club currently refuses to let six minor and eight young adult footballers leave the club and return to their homes.

FIFPro appeals for the immediate release of the players and demands that FIFA and all FA’s involved will realise that this situation be solved in a forthright manner, with the players returning to their Liberian homes and families safely and without any obstacles such as expired visas or so-called ‘expenses’.

FIFA transfer regulations prohibit minor players making an international transfer or joining an academy abroad (Article 19 and 19bis of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players). There are exceptions to these rules, but they do not apply to the aforementioned cases of players involved in the trafficking scheme uncovered by FIFPro.

Despite the FIFA RSTP, six minor players from Liberia have signed a multi-year contract with a Laotian premier league club, while two minors appeared in official premier league matches. One of those players even scored.

FIFPro sent an official complaint to FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee requesting a thorough explanation about how the Liberian minors were able to join the Laotian premier league club Idsea Champasak FC and the football academy aligned to it, and how it was possible for two players to appear in Laotian premier league matches without the FIFA TMS preventing this from happening. Articles 19 and 19bis of the FIFA RSTP have been clearly violated.

FIFPro also urged FIFA to take disciplinary action the Laos FA in order to prevent that this practice will continue after this situation is solved.

FIFPro demands that those initiating this trafficking scheme will be brought to justice by FIFA and other relevant authorities.

Also read:Nightmare academy in Laos cheats African minors

“This is a very serious situation”, says Stéphane Burchkalter, FIFPro Division Africa Secretary General. “It is shocking to FIFPro that a club from Laos, which - with all due respect – is a very small football country, can lure 21 minor players from Liberia without the FIFA TMS noticing.”

“What makes this case even more worrying, is that the club and academy apparently are run by unscrupulous men who don’t care about players’ rights or human rights. The wellbeing of the players is not in their interest. They clearly treat players as merchandise. ”

FIFPro suspects that this case is not one of its kind, but probably the tip of the iceberg.

FIFPro strongly supports the aforementioned FIFA regulations concerning the protection of minors. However the FIFA TMS does have a serious weakness as it is built on a reliable collaboration of all football associations involved. This case clearly illustrates this weakness.

Burchkalter: “FIFA’s protection of minors through the TMS was set up to safeguard the most vulnerable players from these sort of practices. We expect FIFA to address this problem immediately in order to reassure FIFPro and all minors and their families worldwide.”

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Stéphane Burchkalter and Brendan Schwab

FIFPro Asia Chairman Brendan Schwab puts the trafficking case into a bigger perspective.

“Unfortunately, through the transfer system, football is legitimising the thoroughly illegitimate practice that a human being is a piece of property that can be bought and sold for profit. This practice has no place in a sport which aspires to advance the principles of fair play, universality and respect.

“The daily conversations that occur in football about how people can profit from the labour of others help feed this culture throughout the football world.

“There comes a time when a moral wrong has to be righted. Nobody has the right to own or control another human being. FIFA recently resolved to right a moral wrong when it agreed to ban the third party ownership of players. Yet, the situation in Laos is akin to forced labour. Sooner or later, the game must address the moral wrong of the transfer system itself.”