Former Super Eagles defender Taribo West, Eseoghene Matthew Edafe and Hong Kong international Alexander Tayo Akande lit up several minds with their experiences at the maiden edition of Footballers Connect, an initiative of Hay Sports.
Footballers Connect is an event aimed at bridging the gap between up and coming footballers, professionals and ex-internationals.
Over 200 young footballers, coaches and administrators were thrilled by the experiences of the speakers who shared stories about their travails and success.
Former Nigeria defender Taribo West revealed that he was a victim of slave contract for close to a decade of his football career.
“I played in Auxerre for free,” Taribo West said. I was playing under a contract for five years without knowing the contents and conditions binding the contract.
The ex-Inter Milan and AC Milan defensive trojan stated that he never understood what he signed as it was written in French which saw him perform in unbearable condition, despite being a cog member of the Ligue 1 outfit.
He advised that every footballer should ensure they are properly represented while signing professional contracts else they fall victim.
“After the third year, Arsenal, Juventus, Glasgow Rangers and Sevilla Betis came for me,” he added.
“I went to the coach starting that I wanted to leave but he sat me down and showed me my contract terms with Auxerre. I saw the details of what I had signed. Where my fellow defenders were earning as high as 120,000 French Francs, I was going home with 3000 French Francs.
“I wanted to set Auxerre on fire that day. Immediately, I called my manager who was turning me left and right [while] enjoying himself in Senegal.”
He continued: “One day I went to see my coach after training where I met a certain manager who told me about five clubs were interested in signing me up. On the table I saw Arsenal, Juventus, Glasgow Rangers, Betis Sevilla and Inter Milan.
“He began to make calls and Inter was the destination, I signed the contract papers without knowing its content yet again.”
Taribo West further revealed that while he was working hard on the field of play, with false stories of his lavish lifestyle in the media, it was his manager who was smiling to the bank.
He, however, urged young footballers to always seek professional help, especially before making decisions.
Also speaking at the event was ex-footballer turned sports broadcaster, Eseoghene Matthew Edafe who strongly advised that aspiring footballers and their clubs must begin to take seriously how they interact with the conventional media, and the social media.
He explained that players must understand that the media is a powerful tool which can either make or mar their careers.
While addressing grassroots club owners, he urged that they make insurance of their players a pivotal part of the developmental process in a bid to secure the future of youngsters.
Yabian Fude striker Alexander Tayo Akande, on his part, revealed in details how he moved from Nigeria to Asia, rose through adversity with hard work to becoming a cog member of the Hong Kong senior national team.
Amos Joseph, Strategist for Hay Sports and convener of Footballers Connect added: “We wanted to show people that there is a lot happening in the football space unaddressed and these are affecting young players in their quest to becoming professionals, and seeking greener pastures. It was great to bring the guests along to help us reveal these things”
One of the beneficiaries, Enitan Ajayi said: “This is a message all footballers must hear. Imagine Taribo’s story despite playing at that level, he fell victim to slave contract.”
According to Hay Sports, organisers of Footballers Connect, the next edition of the event is scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.