Thursday 22 August 2019

I was trafficked to UK for sex, says Premier League footballer

Trauma: Al Bangura
Trauma: Al Bangura

Victoria Ward in London

A former Premier League footballer has described how he was trafficked to Britain as a child and forced into male prostitution.

Al Bangura (27), who played for Watford, left his home in Sierra Leone at the age of 14 after his parents tried to make him follow in the footsteps of his late father and become the leader of a voodoo cult.

He feared his life would be in danger so he travelled to neighbouring Guinea where he met a French man who promised to help him fulfil his dream, taking him through France to Britain.

"I didn't know he had another different intention - to get me into the sex trade," Bangura told BBC Radio 4.

The 15-year-old was left alone in a building, where he was attacked by several men.

"All of a sudden, I saw two or three guys come around me, trying to rape me and make me do stuff," he said.

"Because I was young and I was small, I just started screaming. They probably thought I knew what I was there for - obviously I know what I came over here for, I was here to play football.

"I was just crying and proper screaming and I tried to make my way out - I was cold, I was crying, I was shaking, I didn't know what to do, I was all over the place. I made my way outside. I didn't know where to start, I thought it was the end of my life."

Bangura managed to escape and seek asylum. He was spotted by a talent scout and joined Watford when he was 16, later awarded a work permit based on his footballing credentials.

Some 15,000 teenage footballers are said to be trafficked out of west African countries every year, most of them tricked into leaving.

Bangura is now working with the Premier League and charities to raise awareness of the issue. He later signed for Blackpool and had a spell playing in Azerbaijan. Earlier this year, he signed for Coventry City but was released from his contract without making a single senior appearance.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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