Jean Claude Mbvoumin, founding president of Foot Solidaire (FS), is being honored with the United States Sports Academy’s 2015 Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award for the major changes and continued efforts that he has made through his organization for young international football (soccer) players. Football has never been so popular, and transferring out of country can be risky, so having an advocate for those youth players is vital for their freedom.
The Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals that have demonstrated a concern for mankind. This individual should exhibit the qualities of dedication, grace under pressure, personal sacrifice, compassion, hope, and dignity that characterize the promotion of human welfare and social reform.
An epidemic of human trafficking is on the rise and youth football in Africa is not immune.
African children are lured to Europe by corrupt recruiters that are failing to abide by immigration and labor laws. These players’ families are often approached by convincing agents, some even carrying fake business cards, promising a rewarding contract abroad in exchange for a fee ranging between $5,000 and $10,000. Once in Europe, these children are often paid a small percentage of what was promised to them and are abandoned after they fail to make the cut for a football club.
Mbvoumin himself was recruited from his home of Cameroon to play football in France, so it is no surprise that he has become an advocate for international recruits, seeing the need to support these young players being persuaded to play out of their native country. Since its inception in 2000, the FS has homed, helped, and supported more than 1,400 young players. FS has also worked with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to change recruiting laws to better protect minors.
The FS works with many governing bodies in an effort to spread the word about the trafficking of young footballers. In 2014, Mbvoumin co-organized the Palais des Nations in Geneva for the conference-debate: “The True Path of Integration and Success of Young African Athletes in Europe.” This conference was the third session of a series debate, other sessions included “Trafficking in Young Footballers in Africa: An Insurmountable Challenge” and “Reception, Protection and Development of Young Players.”
The FS has also hosted the “International Conference of the Young African Footballer” three times over the past 10 years. The 2012 conference was held in Switzerland, in 2008 it was held in Mbvoumin’s hometown of Cameroon, and in 2006 it was held in France. The goal of the conference is to warn potential victims of the realities of football recruiting. “The issue at hand is difficult, complex,” Mbvoumin said at the conference in France. “It is not always easy to convince people of the necessity of this action, the need to try something.”
In 2007, Mbvoumin presented before the European Parliament to raise awareness of the issue and find solutions to the problem. Some of these solutions included a signed code of conduct for recruiters, cooperation between European football authorities and immigration services, and issuing short-term visas associated with international transfer certificates. In addition it was suggested that when a when a player’s contract ends, clubs should commit to provide third country national players the opportunity to return home.
With the help of the International Organization for Migration, Mbvoumin created a welcome booklet to be given to newly arrived football players. The booklet explains labor laws and highlights social services that can help the young players.
Mr. Mbvoumin is a leader in fighting trafficking in football players. He will be receiving the Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award for his efforts, which have increased international awareness of the issue.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.