African players in the Premier League have been commonplace now for many years, wowing crowds with their often combatant style with great technique and skill, they have established themselves as household names in Europe’s top leagues, earning riches they could only ever have dreamed of. But for every Drogba and Eto’o there are hundreds that don’t make the grade. There is nothing strange about that, it is the same for all players, no matter where in the world they are from. But ‘Soka Afrika‘ explores the seedy side of African football, that us European fans are naive to.
A documentary set in the build up to the 2009 FIFA World U20 Cup, focuses on two young African footballers, Kermit Erasmus from South Africa and Ndomo Julian Sabo from Cameroon. Both our chasing their dream, but take very different paths.
Soka Afrika follows Kermit as he establishes himself at Excelsior in Holland and with his national team, and Ndomo whose family is conned by an ‘agent’ to sell their possessions and send him to Europe with promise of trials and contracts. Ndomo ends up homeless and starving on the streets of Paris, miles from home and in a seemingly hopeless situation.
Soccer Trafficking is sadly commonplace, with would be agents exploiting the dreams of young African footballers (often as young as 15) living in poverty with promises of fortunes to be earned. For every one that makes it, hundreds are cast aside, alone in a foreign country.
The documentary, also follows Jean Claude Mbvoumin, a former Cameroon international who plied his trade in France as a pro. He and other fellow former African players setup ‘Culture Foot Solidaire’ to raise awareness and offer help to those like Ndomo who find themselves stranded.
Soka Afrika is a fantastic documentary, and is a real eye opener to those of us who have often bemoaned ‘pampered footballers’, it is hard hitting and tragic in places, but also leaves you feeling buoyant at the attitude and smiles of the young players wronged but still fighting to live their dream.
As an aside there is a also a quick look at the legacy of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and it isn’t pretty….
A must watch for anyone who has watched African stars in European Leagues, and never given a second thought to how they might have got here!