Al Bangura: Former Watford Premier League star was 'trafficked for sex' as a child

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

Mark Critchley
Friday 20 November 2015 08:32
Comments
Former Watford midfielder Al Bangura
Former Watford midfielder Al Bangura

A former Premier League footballer has revealed he was trafficked for sex after arriving in the UK as a child.

Al Bangura, speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, is now working with the Premier League to raise awareness around the growing risks facing young African players desperate to play in Europe.

The 27-year-old left his home in Sierra Leone at the age of 14 and travelled to neighbouring Guinea, where he met a French man who promised to help him fulfil his dream of playing football professionally.

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

&#13; <p>Al Bangura</p>&#13;

The pair travelled to France and then on to the UK, where Bangura suddenly found himself abandoned and left alone in a unfamiliar building.

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

"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."

Al Bangura, during his time at Watford

Non-governmental organisation Foot Solidaire estimates that 15,000 young footballers leave West African countries each year, many tempted to leave home by the false promises of dishonest agents.

Following the incident, Bangura was directed to the Home Office, who granted him two-year asylum.

"It was so emotional, because after a few months I'd kind of forgotten about what I'd been through, it had been sad but I ended up coming to a good thing,” Bangura said.

"I started meeting people, started playing football and I got the opportunity to join Watford when I was 16 and things just started building up for me."

"It's quite emotional to talk about it now, I'm happy I've got over it, but it's sad for me."

The National Crime Agency’s most recent figures show 2,340 potential victims of trafficking came to the UK in 2014, 29 per cent of which were minors.

"I think there's loads of vulnerable kids in Africa who want to achieve what I've achieved in my life,” said Bangura, who is now a free agent following his release from Coventry City last May.

"There's loads of kids who might not even tell their parents, or their parents might use their last money to make sure they come over here to play football and they end up doing something else.

"It's important for me, having been through what I've been through in my life, for me to say I've been through that, I've survived, but what about the young kids coming up, will they survive, are they going to be able to cope with that, so we really need to find a way to stop all of that."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in