By Mark Baber
– It appears Spanish giants FC Barcelona have breached FIFA regulations on the international transfer of players designed to stop child trafficking and exploitation.
Barcelona have a number of under-age players from outside Spain on their books but have have now been directed by FIFA not to select six players for their youth teams: French boy Theo Chendri, Koreans Lee Seung Woo, Paik Seung-Ho and Jang Gyeolhee, 14 year old Nigerian-Dutch Bobby Adekanye and Cameroonian Patrice Sousia.
Barcelona spokesman Chemi Terres claimed FIFA’s communication caught the club by surprise.
In its defence, the club said it educates minors at its La Masia training facility in a complete manner, including training in personal care, culture and nutrition, apart from sports and normal studies and that Spanish law allows minors to live and study in Spain as long as they are accompanied by a legal guardian.
FIFA have a long-standing policy to strictly control the transfer of minors to prevent child trafficking.
In February 2007, FIFPro filed a case against the Danish Football Association (DBU) and Danish club FC Midtjylland for breaching FIFA regulations on import of underage players. The players, who were all aged 16-17, were given licenses as amateur players by DBU in direct conflict with article 19 of FIFA’s Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). Both FC Midtjylland and DBU were issued with strong warnings by FIFA in January 2008 for the infringement of article 19 of the RSTP.
At the same time it was emphasized that it would lead to serious consequences, should the club continue its import of underage players. FC Midtjylland appealed the case to the CAS who upheld FIFA’s verdict.
The judgement was hailed by Mads Oland of FIFPro who said: “FIFA’s regulations are intended to protect against trafficking of underage players from Third World countries and must be observed by all clubs – including FC Midtjylland. The rule is necessary and without it we can end up in an unpleasant situation where European clubs compete for bringing in a large number of hopeful underage players. After the preliminary sorting, most players will be sent back home with the sense of failure. Or even worse they will end up being sent from club to club in Europe. Ultimately, only very few end up making it.”
The regulations were further strengthened in October 2009 and Article 19 on the Protection of Minors is crystal clear that international transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.
The only exceptions to this rule are strictly limited to situations where the player’s parents move to the country for reasons not linked to football, where the player is 16 to 18 and the transfer takes place within the EU or EEA (and then only under strict conditions on living standards and education) or if the player’s usual domicile is within 100km of the club.