Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review of "The Lost Boys"

This book is not one for the faint of heart - this story of human trafficking and slavery of young men aspiring to play professional football in Europe is one that is shocking, but it needs to be told. Here is my review of "The Lost Boys." 

“The Lost Boys: Inside Football’s Slave Trade” by Ed Hawkins

Football (European), soccer, politics, abuse

Publish date:
May 10, 2016

288 pages

4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

There have been many negative headlines about the sport of football (soccer) in recent months, especially about its governing body, but something that never makes headlines is the story of trafficking and slavery of boys who have dreams of playing the sport professionally. This book by Ed Hawkins exposes this tragedy and shows the extent to which this controversy extends – from the poorest of African countries to Qatar and its successful bid for the 2022 World Cup to cities with premier clubs such as Barcelona.

Hawkins tells the stories of several young men, mainly from Africa, who have paid money to bogus “agents” or to travel for tryouts for professional clubs in Europe only to have their dreams shattered because of various reasons.  Whether visa issues, laws about not allowing people under 18 to travel abroad (regularly ignored by these scams) or just not enough talent, these young boys are thrust into a strange place alone and with little money.

The book starts off with the tale of “Jay-Jay” who has suffered nearly every type of abuse that can suffered along the way to try to live out his dream of playing professional football. Hawkins goes from there to follow a charitable organization who attempts to help these boys, but questions are raised about their true motives. His work then shifts to how other organizations, including the Aspire Academy and Aspire Dreams, are really part of this trade.  That latter organization is even implicated by the author into assisting in Qatar’s bid for the World Cup to help naturalize young talent in Qatar. This type of investigative work and writing makes this book both mesmerizing and haunting because it illustrates the far-reaching affect this “trade” affects the sport of football.

Reading the book takes some time, as the topics do shift quickly from the boys to the organizations to the “agents” and back to the boys so it may be difficult to follow. This is not a book to pick up with one’s afternoon tea, but instead one that should be read to learn more about the true suffering some young people endure when chasing their dream.

I wish to thank Bloomsbury Sport for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

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