From South America and Africa, kids as young as thirteen are leaving poverty-stricken families for new lives in Europe, having been sold a vision of untold riches in professional soccer. This is soccer's slave trade—the beautiful game turned ugly.
Talent-spotted by scouts, these kids are told they could be “the next big thing.” But the reality is very different. Having spent their family's life savings to join a much-hyped academy, they soon discover the academies barely exist and that they have been exploited. Only a tiny percentage of the hopefuls are chosen just to be coached for the slim chance of a professional contract; the rest are abandoned. With no money to go home—let alone the confidence to face their heartbroken families—these “Lost Boys” find themselves stuck in the country to which they have been trafficked, with crime often their only means of survival.
Lost Boys exposes for the first time the anatomy of soccer's human-trafficking scandal, the extent of the abuse, and the ways in which it ruins lives and threatens the credibility of the sport. With unique access to a charity trying to rescue and repatriate the children and a special investigative unit set up to stem the problem, Ed Hawkins dives into one of the most serious and heartrending issues in sports today.
Lost Boys is investigative journalism at its best: shocking, moving, and hoping to make a real difference.