Tuesday 8 September 2009

A hypocritical rethink - Kakuta and slavery

I am no Chelsea fan, also the full facts are not yet out, but having collected my thoughts it does appear that they may have been rather harshly treated by FIFA. Tapping up adult players under contract is something that should be punished severely, but time and time again UEFA and FIFA have ignored the big Spanish and Italian clubs of doing this, what Chelsea have been banned for this time around is rather different. The Kakuta sage will run and run, Platini always seems to have an opinion where English clubs are concerned and he thinks 'child trafficking' has been going on. The reality is a lot more complex than this FIFA and UEFA spin.

There are plans afoot to ban the movement of under-18 players entirely. I have to say that as often is the case with FIFA and UEFA new rules rushed through in a short sighted and politically motivated manner have the potential to do a lot more harm than good. Martin Samuel argues as much in this excellent article, the case of ASPTT Marsielle is a great example of this bizarre new idea, blanket rules could be very bad for football as a whole.

After all if no one under the age of 18 could move clubs then everyone would continue to play for their local village sides if this was taken to an extreme, the best kids would not get better coaching and would not get to play against the better kids, it would result in an awful system in which talent would perish. Surely kids should be able to move to better clubs that allow them to develop? Just look at the UK rule which means that kids cannot join clubs outside of their 'catchment zone', it means if you are unlucky enough to live a good distance from a decent club then you will be punished and this system has led to the bigger clubs going abroad more often than they otherwise may have done.

If under 18 players had to stay with the same club until they were eighteen, then surely this would give the clubs a massive amount of power over the players, they could effectively enslave them, there would be no incentive to treat them well, is this really in the interests of the young players. It must be remembered that Gael Kakuta and his family have done very well for themselves thus far, they now live in a nice bit of England, not a sh*t hole in France, they are now financially more sorted and he has been given an opportunity to play with some great players in order to develop his talents.

I am no Chelsea fan, but this rush to persecute seems a tad foolish to me. The french pre contract which is signed for players when they are under the age of 16 cannot count legally, and it appears that FIFA's judgement must assume that it does, is something fishy going on here? There is already a loophole that allows 16 and 17 year olds to move as free agents in the EU, and apparently this may be closed fairly soon. I do think that rules are needed to clamp down on just how much can be offered to young players and their families to encourage them to move at so young an age.

If FIFA and UEFA have their way then young players will be tied to their first club, with this system there is a massive potential for dodgy agents and clubs to take advantage by ensnaring youngsters in a completely legal manner and then cashing in when they try to move away. This new system would have much more of a capacity for enslaving children, the current one certainly does not enslave, it may well lead to clubs being unrewarded for their youth products, but these young players are the complete opposite of slaves. A better way to go would be to ensure that the compensation for poaching young talent is much fairer and that the finances of such deals are properly regulated, I am very sure that restricting the movement of young players in such blanket fashion will not be good for either the young players or the game of football.


javbrad said...

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bluemoon said...

I agree with you but the good for this problem is no cheating act like robbed the young promising player likeMAN U or CHELSKIES done.

WEG said...

Good post, 1979gooner. The main problem, though, is that the nursery club has very little power when a player wants to leave. While it would be wrong to prevent a kid from moving to a better coaching club, it's also wrong to leave the nursery club empty-handed.

I'm thinking it's time to add a tax (say 5%) on all transfers. This can be collected by the national FA, and then funneled back into youth and local clubs, based on the no. of their explayers playing professionally. It'll give local clubs an incentive to invest in young players and still give young players freedom of movement.

Ted said...

Good article 1979. Interesting stuff.

The whole tapping-up saga is a massive problem. Clubs like Chelsea could afford to flout the rules with impudence because the fines were pathetic. But the transfer bans handed out to them and Lazio might now change that perspective. We can only wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Chavski and manure use to buy players left,right and center and have really not concerned themselves with development until recently,if you look thru the transfers over the last few yrs you see both clubs have released or sold there youth players.

Now that the recession is still on us and the gov has hike top tax bracket to 50% the premier is not as attractive as it use to be, top players have declined to joined both clubs and now both clubs with there arrogance and ''untouchable''thinking are now tapping into the youth market,which there have ignored before,by use of there financial prowess.

I not against youth developing by moving clubs etc but on past track record of tapping up(Cole,Horse-face,stam to name a few)by these 2 clubs i not surprised this has arisen and yes something must be done.

marcus said...

Good blog. I reacted in knee-jerk fashion when I first heard the news about the Chelsea ban but then realized I was dead wrong. The trouble with this whole debate is that it's being discussed in such a polarized manner and in very simplistic terms. It's a very complicated issue. This terrific article on VitalArsenal, entitled "Why young players should come to England" is a good retort to some of the simplistic platitudes from the media and FIFA: http://www.arsenal.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=515927

I find it offensive to liken what Chelsea, Man Utd and ARsenal do to "child trafficking" when there is in fact REAL child trafficking going on in football, and FIFA don't do anything about it. In Brazil and Africa there are conmen posing themselves as football agents to the poor, promising families that their boys will be hired by big clubs if only the parents will pay their transportation and monthly expenses. The boys then go off with these conmen who are then housed in miserable conditions, taken to lousy pitches to "practice" and never bought by a club at all. Meanwhile the parents keep sending that money to the agent and the kids see very little of it.

Italy and Spain (and now Man Utd have joined them) have long established networks in South America and they routinely take talented kids at very young ages. It's become a huge issue in Brazil and the Brazilian president just last week publicly condemned European clubs for stripping domestic football of their young talent.

marcus said...

Sorry for posting so much on this but I did have more to say...

Wenger has often said that by the time a footballer reaches the age of 15, there is so much he's already absorbed into his game and it's impossible to unlearn a lot of the negative aspects, that there's not a lot you can teach at that point. He also has talked about a project in France years ago in which two sets of children in a football academy were tracked -- one group started their education at the age of 5, the other at the age of 7. Over time, it became clear that the group who'd started earlier had far better skills and confidence than the second group. It's like learning the piano or a language. After a certain age, it's impossible to absorb all you need to know to become truly fluent in the skill.

It's one thing if you're a kid at Barca but if you're a talent at some little known club in Africa or Belarus, and you can only move abroad at the age of 18, then the nurturing and development of your talent will have been stunted. The simple fact is that those clubs do not have the resources or savvy to fully develop football talent.

Then there's the case of Cesc, who said he was sick and tired of being stuck in the reserves winning 10-0 because there was just too much talent in front of him. If he'd stayed at Barca he'd be a benchwarmer, behind Xavi and Iniesta. At 22 he's played more games than many older players in all competitions and he's captain.

For me the issue of fairness has to be about just compensation to the selling club, not forcing talent to waste away in poor quality clubs and football countries. And btw, there ARE young kids who go abroad to study music, art, etc. on scholarships--what's wrong with getting a good football education at a top class academy?

Ted said...

some good points there and very interesting.

however, there are some good counter-examples as well to the gospel of coaching.

The steady stream of wonder kids being produced in south america, and more recently in africa, are usually not the products of coaching academies from an early age. The local teams just pick up the good players, as in England. In Brazil, the stereotype of kids playing in the streets for hours and hours still applies.

When was the last time you saw English kids playing in the street? Its even a rare sight in most parks nowadays.

Even the kids who do play in teams in England are often coached badly. Its often been said that the traditional English training methods, which go straight into competetive matches from as early as possible, in fact lower skill levels and restrict development.

Players like Ronaldo (the fat one), Rivaldo, Ronaldinho etc were not coached into playing like that in Brazil. Tevez tells similar stories from his childhood in Argentina. They just played football and didn't even start playing XI a side matches until quite late in the day.

Perhaps closer to home, we have our dear own Ian Wright, who allegedly received no top level coaching until aged 23 when he was spotted on the Hackney Marshes by scouts and given a chance by Steve Coppell at Crystal Palace.

For my money, Wrighty remains one of the best centre forwards Arsenal have ever had.

I guess you could say "imagine what he would have been like if he had been coached properly from aged 5". But we will never know.....

There are probably very few places that can genuinely boast a good reputation for developing talented young players. Arsenal and West Ham regularly bring kids through in the Premier league, Palace and Crewe have a good record lower down the league. But with a few exceptions, thats about it.

But the example of a footballing education is a good one. Perhaps Uncle Mike could assist here, but I get the impression that in the US, the 'incentives' paid by colleges to attract the best sports players are massive and ultimately do not prevent the big colleges from still dominating the scene.

The fundamental flaw with any ban on under-18 transfers is that what if the family moves for non-footballing reasons from Lens to London. If they have a good footballer in the family aged 14, could he then play for Chelsea or does he still have to play for Lens? Surely not.

But how on earth could you ever come up with a system that actually prevents Chelsea engineering a move and bringing the whole family over? Its simply unworkable.

Rhinogooner said...

Sour note - just read a report that Rosicky was injured playing for Czech. Hope it's not true....

Obsinho said...


no mention of any new injury yet......

Obsinho said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marcus said...

Ted, you make a good point about kids who just learned their game naturally without academy coaching from a young age. Fair enuf. But as you say England doesn't have a culture (not anymore) where kids just play in the streets and learn their natural game that way. There's also the 90 min catchment rule, which no one in the media ever talks about. It restricts recruitment locally.

I'm watching the France-Serbia game and I'm concerned about Gallas and Sagna. The French keeper was sent off 10 mins into the game and France have been down to 10 men since then. France have been working incredibly hard since then and the Serbians are putting in really tough tackles. The French are going to be exhausted and really sore after this game. Gallas and Sagna are all over the place working incredibly hard to stop Serbian attacks. At the moment, the game is a 1-1 draw.

Uncle Mike said...

I don't want to defend Chelsea, either, but I am a big believer in the rules applying equally to everybody. A boxing referee can't allow one player to use kidney punches and head-butts while telling the other fighter to keep one hand behind his back.

I'm in the middle of reading "Winning At All Costs," about Italian football, by John Foot, an Englishman living in Milan (and unfortunately an Inter fan). I've gotten to the part about Italy's first football scandal, in which Juventus was caught tapping-up in 1910, with a point deduction costing them a title even though other clubs had done it without punishment. He said this was a unique situation, Juventus being the victim of a scandal rather than the perpetrators of one. He also mentioned being an Arsenal fan and being heartbroken when Juve signed Liam Brady.

To back up Marcus' point, there was an article in FourFourTwo a couple of months ago about Nii Lamptey and the problems he had as a teenage star, getting out of Ghana.

Ted invoked U.S. college sports. It has gotten obscene. About 20 years ago, there was a widely-published remark about a star football player at the University of Oklahoma, one of the most successful programs in the country, but also one of the most-punished for various violations. I've forgotten the player's name, but it was said he was going to have a hard time in the NFL because he was going to have to take a pay cut. Since the institution of the NFL's salary cap in 1994, the joke is that some players don't leave college early to enter the NFL Draft because their college has a smaller cap. (Talk about "winning caps"... )

Wu-Tang Clan got it wrong: CREAM doesn't stand for "Cash Rules Everything Around Me." It stands for "Cash Ruins Everything Around Me." Or, as real-life NFL player John Matuszak said in "North Dallas Forty," "Every time I say it's a game, you say it's a business. Every time I say it's a business, you say it's a game."

Rhinogooner said...

Apologies all. I must have been mistaken about Rosicky getting injured.

I had read Czech supporters comments on a match tracker site that seemed to indicate that there was concern about him injuring himself again.

Shame I can't say the same about Arshavin :-(