Liberian ‘Minors’ Win FIFA Ruling
Monrovia – IDSEA Champasak of Laos has been fined by the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) with a fine of 690,000 Swiss francs (US$707,993.82) after being found guilty of breaching several provisions concerning international transfers on Liberian minor.
Report by Christopher C. Walker, [email protected]
The case involving Liberian minor footballers and IDSEA Champasak Club of Laos was concluded on Thursday, April 19, after more than three years of investigation with world football governing body (FIFA).
After three years and 30 days, FIFA ruled in the Liberian minors favour, sanctioning the FA of Laos with a fine of over US$700,000.
FIFA indicated that the Lao FA breached Article 19 on the rules governing transfers of minors as they never obtained International Transfer Certificates (ITC), but allowed them play in the country’s league.
It can be recalled that in February 2015, 22 young Liberian footballers travelled to Laos with the aim of going on an academy program, but everything turned a deception as they were made to sleep at the basement of a dilapidated stadium with inhumane treatment meted against them, and within less than two months, there were complaints on the players stay in Laos, a story that went viral as 17 of the 22 players decided to return home to continue their career and reunite with their families.
After such a protracted period of detailed investigation, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has ruled in favor of the minors.
The sanction comes after BBC reported in 2015 that African Footballers as young as 14 years were being traded to Laos.
The report unveiled that the Laos side, Champasak United, imported 23 under-aged players from West Africa to an unregistered football academy in February 2015 with 17 of the kids from Liberia.
According to FIFA’s regulation on Transfer of Player, it is against the regulation for a player under 18 years to be transferred to a foreign club and academy.
Many West African countries lack football academies of their own and young players from any of those countries, including Liberia, where there are no recognized academies, accepted invitations to join the ‘IDSEA Champasak Asian African Football Academy.’
Brilliant winger Kesselly Kamara, who later played for first division outfit in Liberia, Fassell FC, went to Laos at age 14, said he was tricked by former Liberia international defender Alex Karmo into signing a six-year deal before playing for Champasak.
Little Kamara said the contract promised him a salary and accommodation but was never paid and slept on the floor of the club’s stadium with his friends.
‘It was very bad because you can’t have 30 people sleeping in one room,’ Kamara told the BBC.
According to Liberian journalist and sports promoter Wleh Bedell, who travel with the kids to Asia, the academy offered by Champasak never existed.
‘It’s a fictitious academy, which was never legally established,’ said Bedell. ‘It’s an ‘academy’ that has no coach or a doctor. Karmo was the coach, the business manager, everything. It was completely absurd,’ Bedell told BBC back in 2015.
Following pressure from FIFPro and Fifa, by April 2015 Champasak released 17 teenagers from their contracts, with Kamara among them.
Some of the young footballers, who returned to Liberia including goalkeeper Abdulai Koulibaly, formerly of Monrovia Club Breweries now of BYC, Melvin Brop told the BBC that they were poorly fed, rarely paid and received no medical assistance from the club.
When they arrived in Laos, the club held their passports, and since they were illegal immigrants, their freedom of movement was restricted.
‘It is shocking to FIFPro that a club from Laos, which – with all due respect – is a very small football country, can lure minor players from Liberia without Fifa noticing,’ FIFPro official Stephane Burchkalter said.
The winning of such landmark case is victory for Liberia and the rest of Africa as the issue of human trafficking must be honestly tackled Bedell wrote on social media on Thursday, April 19.
“Special thanks must go to the Liberia Football Association (LFA), Federation of International Football Professionals (FIFpro) the Ghana Players Union (GPU), Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) and the parents of the 17 players who encouraged their children to return home as there was nothing for them in Laos,” the renewal Sports Writers posted on Facebook.
He has also appreciated President George Weah for his role played in helping the kids return to Liberia.
“With world football governing body FIFA ruling in favor of the Liberian minors in the Laos case, two key personalities that must be greatly hailed are President George Manneh Weah and Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence.”
“During the heat of the imbroglio in 2015, Senator Lawrence who I have a good relationship with since becoming her deputy then at the LPRC Public Relations Section as of 2008, did send me an email asking for update on the situation. I instantly responded, and she noted that she was going to inform her colleagues and make sure she put the case on the floor in Plenary. She also disclosed that President Weah (than Senator Weah), who was also out of the country like her, was saddened by the news and wanted to talk to the Laos FA and had already started making interventions.”
“Upon breaking the news to the players, they soon burst into life as they began making “prophesies” that once Ambassador Weah was involved, they were ready to start packing their bags and began singing to the glory of God.
“The IDSEA president who invited the players was one person who idolized Weah and was always keen to see him in person.”
“News from Liberia from a family friend and brother, Emmanuel Payne, said the news of the minors was all in the corridors of the Capitol and sources had said Ambassador Weah was making frantic efforts to see the players return home.”