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16.08.2003 Sports News

Illegal employment of African footballers in the Netherlands

By Ranjen Pathmamanoharan
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Like other European football clubs, Ajax is searching for the next big diamond in Africa.

In 1999 they set up an academy at Ashanti Goldfields in Ghana. John Quansah was one of the first players who were part of this academy. Like other African footballers he had only one dream - to make it big in Europe.

Ajax let Quansah come over to the Netherlands at 14, and he played in various youth tournaments. Dutch employment law says Ajax should have applied for a work permit, but they ignored these regulations.

John Quansah got an expense allowance during his stay of around 180 Euros a month. If Ajax employed him legally, they should have paid an annual salary of 173,000 Euros.

"They told me I couldn't have any more money, but they promised if I reached 18 and played well they would get me a contract" he says.

Quansah played and trained so intensively he got injured, and Ajax soon turned their back on him.

"I played and trained like a professional" he says.

"I trained four times a week, twice a day and played three matches a week. My muscles were very tired and that resulted in my injury. They sent me back to Ghana, and said they would send a scout to check on my progress - but I never saw anybody.

"It was not fair. As a footballer the club are responsible for your injuries so they should treat me and then let me play for them, and not send me back to my own country.

"The way Ajax treated me wasn't fair. I don't want this to happen to anyone else" he says.

John Quansah's story is not the first of its kind. A common practice at football clubs in the Netherlands is to bring players in on a three month visa, during which time they play on trial. But if they fail to come up to standard the young talents are sometimes dumped.

Two months ago Ajax paid a fine of 6,600 Euros for illegally employing three football players. Lately the Labour Investigation has started a new investigation into the activities of Ajax and Feyenoord.

As the clubs don't seem to be deterred by the fines imposed, the Dutch government has announced that sanctions will be tightened up.

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