This is story that’s been tackled primarily in documentaries – a few we’ve covered in the last 2 to 3 years, as it seems like there’s growing interest in the plight of these young men.
But this is one of very few works of scripted fiction on the subject that I’ve come across.
It’s a business that’s been compared to a modern-day version of the slave trade. Films on the subject sketch portraits of an anarchic and international network of speculators and traffickers of young African boys (although the same can be said about Central American boys and the MLB in the USA), under the aegis of the global football/soccer circuit.
The same could also be said about the professional football and basketball *farming* system here in the USA.
The notion of the black athlete as slave certainly isn’t a new one; articles and books equating the 2 have been written, most recently the book by New York Times sports columnist, William Rhoden, titled Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete.
Baff Akoto’s 2010 documentary, Football Fables, which we covered on this site, is one example of all the recent films that explore this soccer subject, whether broadly, or specifically and clinically. Some are more damning than others – exposés of African football (or what we in the states call soccer) migration.
The new scripted fiction film is a Spanish/Portuguese production titled Diamantes Negros, or Black Diamonds.
Directed by Spaniard Miguel Alcantud, Diamantes Negros, which makes a connection between the black diamond, and the black athlete, stars 2 Malian boys, Setigui Diallo and Hamidou Samaké, and laments what it calls the trafficking of African children to Europe to play football, comparing it to the transatlantic slave trade.
The two young men are convinced by scouts/agents of the riches that await them in Europe, but it doesn’t take long for those dreams to become nightmares. Cut off from their families and friends, the challenges they face are even heavier burdens to carry.
A practice that is specifically prohibited by FIFA rules, which stipulate that no European club can sign players under 18 outside Europe, the film argues that the practice continues widely, even within some of the major European leagues.
These children are usually “imported” in a variety of ways: with fake scholarships, fake employment contracts, counterfeit passports and more. And given the poverty in which many of these children often live in, in their home countries, their families are unable to resist the sales pitch, with promises of their children becoming football stars and making lots of money.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ongoing concern and conversation over racism in soccer in the European leagues especially, many of the targeted players of African descent. A Google search will reveal several recent incidents and fines as a result.
Diamantes Negros, described as a “courageous and tough docu-drama, completely removed from any American, vacuous or commercial feeling,” is screening at the Montreal World Film Festival, which takes place Aug. 22-Sept. 2.
It’s produced by Carlo D’Ursi for Potenza Producciones (Spain) and Fado Filmes (Portugal), and will be distributed internationally by Pulse Films. Let’s hope it travels to the USA, eventually.
I dug up the below trailer, however it’s not subtitled in English; but the images tell the tale: