I mentioned in my last post that I would be doing some reviews of the films I saw at the Kick & Screening football film fest in New York last week. Well, here is my first one, and a very powerful one to start off. Soka Afrika is a powerful film about the journey of two young African players who dream of a better life as professional footballers in Europe. The film brings attention to the common dream and journey that all young footballers share to become professionals. However a more poignant reality that the film so powerfully conveys is about the trafficking of African players into Europe by crooked agents. These agents give the players false hope, capitalizing on their dreams to their gain and then leave them stranded in a foreign land. More on Soka Afrika after the jump
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Soka Afrika is centred around the story of young South African player Kermit Erasmus and Cameroonian Ndomo Julien Sabo. Both players have the dream and ability to better their life as professional footballers abroad. However the film shows that their paths to reach the desired destination to play in Europe are very different. Erasmus is scouted in South Africa and moves to Dutch team Feyenoord where he goes onto be a success at club level and internationally for South Africa youth team. Whereas Ndomo’s journey is not so rosy. Ndomo, who is from a poor background, is told by a European agent to pay for travel to get to Paris. This is all on a false promise of a trial at French club that amounted to nothing. Ndomo was then left stranded, hungry and homeless on the streets of Paris with no sign of the agent that presented the initial opportunity. Thankfully, a former Cameroonian professional player named Jean Claude Mbvoumin learned of this trafficking, helps Ndomo return home and founded French NGO Foot Solidaire- an organization hoping to prevent young Africans improperly trafficked into Europe under false hope and pretences.
Many of us in the UK look at the likes of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Asamoah Gyan and other successful African players in the premiership and celebrate them for the pace, power, hunger and flair that they add to the best league in the world. However it is very easy to forget that for one Michael Essien, there are many young African players who travel to remote European countries upon the hope of becoming the next big African star. However what is the plan B when they don’t make it?
Often times there isn’t one unless there are good clubs or honest agents to assist. I was quite unaware of this issue so I am sure others would be too. I am delighted I got the opportunity to be educated by Soka Afrika. The film does a great job of engaging the audience through fast paced but sentimental film-making yet balances it with educating us on a serious issue which many may not be aware of. It is perhaps not surprising that this film was awarded the Golden Whistle award for best film at the Kick & Screening festival. I was truly inspired and was fortunate to talk to producers Simon Laub & Sam Potter personally about the film and how I could get involved as a professional footballer to raise awareness on the issue of trafficking in football.
Check out the film trailer below.