Exposing Child Trafficking in Sports
Wleh Bedell, a Liberia soccer journalist, took 21 Liberia minors or under age soccer players to Laos,being invited by a premier club of that country for a trial soccer tournament.Their plane tickets were bought by the Laotian club and they were told that the accommodation would have been a five star hotel with good reception.With consent from the Liberia Football Association and the minors' parents, Wleh, who was head of the delegation, arrived in Laos with the minors in February 2015. When they arrived, everything that was promised was fictitious, there was no accommodation as promised and no tournament. The minors were taken to an old warehouse under a deserted stadium where there was no doors, to sleep on the floor and they were fed with a small meal twice a day.Wleh was taken to a better facility as a way to have him have him join the ploy .He refused and blow the whistle to FIFA and with financial support from FIFPRO, the world football player union, they returned to Liberia.
Child Trafficking in sports is a serious crime and an international organization said that yearly over 1500 under age children are trafficked from Africa yearly for soccer purposes. When Wleh and delegation returned home, he organized the Footballer United Against Trafficking and began having workshops and seminars to expose the illegal movement of players in football. Before leaving Liberia, he was the Public Relations Manager of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company in Monrovia, when he was leaving, he took a leave of 6 weeks but because he had to overstay and wait for funding from FIFPRO, world player football union,to transport the minors back to Liberia, when he returned he was relieved of his job but he remain in sports advocacy .
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
Today, FIFA, FIFPRO and the international media like BBC came to Liberia and documented the minors's experience and are now using it to forewarn many young soccer players in Africa. Today, the culprit has been exposed because their plan was to have the minors be in Laos and use them to make money by doing a video of them sleeping under the stadium on a floor and taking it to charity around the world and Asia to seek funding. That was their plan and it worked for some time but Wleh was persistent as an individual advocate to expose them. The Laotian club even used some of the minors illegally in the local Laotian league without any transfer clearance and this too was also exposed. FIFA has now recognized the many inconsistencies and lack of order and dubious dealings some clubs and Federations like the Laotian Federation for Sports and have been deploying by allowing illegal players to play without proper document in their respective leagues.
Footballer United Against Trafficking was born due to this campaign and is suing former footballers to educate younger ones of the danger of illegal movement in sports and encouraging young players to learn other trades and not depend on some dream future of traveling to a place no one knows, in the name of seeking greener pasture.
Today, all the minors that returned have become responsible career people after their plight was told on BBC and they got scholarships to better their education locally and also many minors come to value education and patience as it will never fail then rather than pursuing some soccer fantasy.
Lack of finance to take the advocacy campaign to other countries in Africa and teach seminars and workshops on child trafficking in sports and lecture series for young soccer players.
The lesson learned from the Wleh advocacy is the ability to be selfless as Wleh had the option to join the ploy as he was given a bribe to accept and close his mouth with a better accommodation and a better salary of 1500 per month. He refused and his life was threatened and he was told that if he do not keep quiet, his head would have returned to Liberia in a bag. Still, he sought advice from family back home and FIFA and he was advised to leaved Laos on the grounds that the minors would follow in three days. He said he would not leave except with the minors but he later left with 4 players and after three days the rest of the players joined him in Ghana from Laos. He was selfless, an advocate, and even willing to die.