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Sport and migration

Didier Drogba, ILO and FIFPRO raise awareness among young football players of the risks of emigration

A look back at the launch of the campaign to raise awareness among young Ivorian football players of the risks of ill-prepared emigration. The campaign is being run jointly by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Didier Drogba and his Foundation, the International Federation of Professional Footballers' Associations (FIFPRO), and former Ivorian international footballers.

News | 24 October 2022

ABIDJAN (ILO News) – Former football star Didier Drogba and ex-Ivorian international players Marc Zoro, Didier Otokoré and Ghislain Akassou, warned several hundred young footballers from twenty training centres about the consequences of poorly prepared emigration. Joining them for the campaign launch was former Chelsea player and president of FIFPRO-Afrique, Gérémie Njitap, and Director of the ILO Country Office for Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo, Frédéric Lapeyre.

Didier Drogba and his teammates distributed footballs, T-shirts and a comic book entitled "Leaving your country to become a professional footballer" to the young players' coaches. © ILO

Avoiding the pitfalls of ill-prepared emigration

Didier Drogba, the former captain of the Ivorian national team, the Elephants, shared with the jubilant children the key words of his success: "Discipline, listening and work".

He stressed that: "we succeeded in our career because we were well supervised by FIFA agents. We succeeded because we were well looked after by big clubs. And our parents did not let us travel like that in the wind.”

Didier Drogba urges young players to focus on education to succeed.
The iconic Elephants player urged the children to believe in themselves and avoid following "crooked players' agents" who will sell them dreams. "These agents will turn you into beggars, homeless people, people without a situation in many countries,” he said. “I met many young Ivorians and Africans abandoned in many countries when we went to play. They used to say to us, 'old father, we need to be supported'," an emotional Drogba explained. The player concluded: "You know who can make you great? It is yourselves! Your future depends on you”.

"We launched this campaign to warn young people, to encourage them not only to realise their dream, but also to warn them of the risks of this dream so that they are prepared and do not fall into the traps of unprepared emigration," explained Frédéric Lapeyre.

"Of course, these young people must be warned of the risks of emigration, but we must also offer them alternatives; education, vocational training and the involvement of families are very important," he added.

Frédéric Lapeyre explaining the meaning of the ILO campaign. © ILO

Education, the key to success

Didier Drogba explained to the children how his former agent Pape Diouf helped him rise to the top of world football, before placing special emphasis on need for education: "I don't know a player of the highest level who is not cultivated, educated and trained. When you talk about seminars and training, it is education. But education is the most powerful weapon you can give to a person .... There are steps that will be taken in this direction to organize seminars in the future to enable supervisors to be trained and relay much more relevant messages to these young people”.

The campaign’s objective is to raise awareness among young Ivorian footballers of the risks of discrimination, exploitation and human trafficking linked to poorly prepared migration. It will also make them aware of their rights and give them useful tools and advice.

Young football players will therefore have a better knowledge of the means at their disposal to build a professional career under good conditions.

It comes a few days after the signing of the first global agreement on working conditions and rights of professional football players between the sector's social partners.

Gérémi Njitap, the President of the African Division of FIFPRO and former Chelsea teammate of Didier Drogba, pointed out the "risks and obstacles to reach the top level" and gave the children advice on how to achieve their dream of becoming professional footballers: "You have to be passionate first….Everywhere, when a child starts to play well, there are shady and ill-intentioned people who approach him and promise him unattainable dreams. We are here today to tell you to be very careful. You must choose the right channels. You must be well supervised and well surrounded," he said.

After this official launch, the campaign will continue in the centre of the country, notably in Bouaké, San Pedro and Korhogo.

The campaign was supported by the mayor of Port-Bouët, whose chief magistrate Sylvestre Emmou congratulated the ILO, Didier Drogba, FIFPRO and the former Ivorian internationals for this "beautiful initiative that will help prevent rather than cure the scourge of ill-prepared emigration".