Challenging popular representations of child trafficking in football

2018-01-12T14:46:22Z (GMT) by James Esson Eleanor Drywood
Reports of human trafficking within the football industry have become a topic of academic, political, and media concern. The movement of and trade in aspirant young (male) footballers from West Africa to Europe, and more recently to Asia, dominates these accounts. This article provides an overview of scholarship on this topic, with a specific focus on exploring how this form of human trafficking intersects with broader debates over children’s rights in the context of exploitation tied to irregular forms of migration. The article illustrates how popular narratives associated with the trafficking of young West African footballers mimic stereotypical portrayals of child trafficking, which have implications for the solutions put forward. It is argued that popular representations of football related child trafficking are problematic for several reasons, but two are emphasized here. First, they perpetuate a perception that the mobility of young African footballers entails a deviant form of agency in need of fixing, while simultaneously disassociating the desire to migrate from the broader social structures that need to be addressed. Second, and relatedly, they result in regulations and policy solutions that are inadvertently reductive and often at odds with the best interests of the children they seek to protect.