Imagine Cristiano Ronaldo on the streets of Egypt’s Alexandria or Messi in the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar – just imagine. Imagine further, that Alex to Zanzi is the A – Z of Africa’s love for the game of football, can’t deny that, can you?
From Marrakesh through to Benghazi, Bamako to Freetown and on to Accra, Yaoundé, Brazzaville, let’s take a detour via Juba, Addis Ababa and Kampala then on to Harare, Windhoek, Maputo and to Soweto, there is no denying that sports – specifically football – is a dream to many.
To many a young people who love the GOAT (Greatest of all time) generation of Ronaldo and Messi, throw in Africa’s own Salah, Mane and Aubameyang, the journey to living the dream comes with leaving to chase the living.
Without research, progress will continue to be stalled. In this light, Mission’89 dwells on scientific research methodologies to generate insight into the phenomenon.
But the records show that the decision to leave Africa in search of greener pastures has often landed many young people in what experts have labeled as a type of modern day slavery.
But for an anti-trafficking group with sights set on upsetting the hawks and wolves feeding off the innocent young Africans, the menace is likely to stay around for a while longer.
1. It is not all rosy for the thousands of young talented boys and girls who are far away from home stranded in the U.S., UK, Europe and Asia with the hope realising their sporting careers as professional basketball players, soccer players and athletes. #notinourgame pic.twitter.com/cEoQe5zJdl— Mission 89 (@mission_89) February 21, 2019
Africanews speaks to Mission 89 Executive Director
In an exclusive interview with Lerina Bright, Executive Director of Mission 89, she stresses that non-governmental organizations, NGOs, like the one she leads suffer two main challenges.
First, is the well-chronicled issue of resources / funding but also the worrying lack of empirical data from academic research on the issue of human trafficking in general and sports in particular.
In the words of Lerina: “Resources aside, I would have to say that empirical data from academic research is desperately required. Due to the covert nature of human trafficking, more research is needed to expose this scourge and as well provide vital information for education and policy.
“Without research, progress will continue to be stalled. In this light, Mission’89 dwells on scientific research methodologies to generate insight into the phenomenon.”
Need to consolidate gains
Despite gains made in the past, there remains a lot more to be done to shore up and in most cases consolidate the gains she stressed.
Mission 89 despite the hurdles continues to engage with relevant stakeholders across board – from the local, national, sub regional, continental and cross-continental players to champion the cause of responsible migration.
The complexity of trafficking makes it a scourge that would be difficult to eradicate, Lerina admits but adds that empowering parents and children with information looks a best bet to pull the brakes on the hyenas and wolves.
“The empowerment of children and parents with the right information on what constitutes proper recruitment practices and migration processes is very important as this will allow them to make informed decisions.
Who are Mission 89?
Established in October 2017, Mission 89 takes its heritage from the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
Their top priority is to advocate for sport regulations and international policies on migration that will ensure that children can practice sport safely and that those in pursuit of a professional career in sport can achieve this by following regulations and policies that put their interests first.
They have in the last two years of operation partnered among others with the African and European Unions and have rolled out the #NotInOurGame campaign on anti-trafficking straddling from Nigeria, Kenya to Italy.
Thank you to all speakers and attendees at the European Parliament event for saying #notinourgame. We are energized at the level of stakeholder cooperation. It is time for Europe to stand against child trafficking in sport. pic.twitter.com/tWo15dblGI— Mission 89 (@mission_89) October 17, 2018
Africanews will publish the full transcript of our interview with Lerina in due course. For now, the #NotInOurGame mission to protect young athletes, fight exploitation and empower communities is a collective responsibility – we are all involved.