COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of player care throughout the sports industry in both a health and wellbeing aspect, however, The Athletics’ interview with Joe Brett shines a light on something else equally as important.
Joe Brett is an 18-year-old footballer who currently plies his trade for eighth tier side Cirencester Town who are based in Gloucestershire.
The current COVID-19 pandemic and a subsequent shut down of non-league football forced Brett to miss seven months of football, which also accompanied him losing his job working in a warehouse.
With the hope of hitting the heights of football slowly depleting, Brett was offered what he thought was a career lifeline which turned out to be a cruel scam.
“I was approached on Instagram,” Brett said. “He just asked what my aspiration for football was, I told him that I want to make it pro, I want to be the best.”
The fake agent under the alias Martin Kovalsky, complimented Brett and ensured him that he would secure him a trial at a professional football club, which he revealed to be Belenenses, a Portuguese club who play in the first division.
Following back and forth messages on Instagram, ‘Kovalsky’ indicated that a fee of a £910 deposit would be needed to be paid but reassured Brett that this would be refunded once he began his trial.
With Brett having recently lost his job, he took a small loan from a friend in order to pay the deposit that he had hoped would help him kickstart his footballing career.
However, shortly after bank transferring the cash, the ‘agent’ blocked him on Instagram and stopped answering his calls.
It was at this point Brett realised there was no trial.
“Football is a cruel business,” says Brett. “I’m really gutted. I hope it doesn’t happen to someone else.
Brett hasn’t been the only football player to be at the cruel end of these scams, set up by people in order to profit from people’s dreams.
Later that year, FIFPro, an organisation who represents professional football players from around the world, released a statement warning of a Slovakian man Called Martin Kois who was posing as an agent.
The Slovak Football Association also released a warning about Kois last year, which saw numerous people coming forward admitting that they had been scammed in the same way.
Jakub Cavoj, integrity officer of the Slovak Football Association, appealed to others who have not come forward to contact them in order to help stop this type of scams from happening again.
“We contacted UEFA and FIFA and informed the police about the fraud. We appeal to the general public for information.” said Cavoj.
According to FIFPro, this has become a global problem, with victims coming from countries including England, Finland, Paraguay, and Germany to name but a few, all coming forward to say they have been scammed in this way.
A FIFPro spokesperson added: “Too many young players think they are getting a chance with a club abroad, pay their savings to a fake agent, and then end up stranded in a foreign country”.
For aspiring footballers like Brett and many others, this experience epitomises the dark side of the footballing world and how an exploitation of optimism can lead to horrifying conclusions, much like Brett has suffered.
Author: William Hebb