One could easily rename the Ligue 1 Lonaci as the "Ligue 1 remercie". Since the beginning of the season in Côte d'Ivoire, several players have indeed been victims of their employers, without prior notice. They were simply and purely thrown out. For the majority without contract, these athletes are now vegetating in search of a better life, but it is as if clubs had passed the word not to recruit them. Most of them are labelled as trade unionists and therefore undesirable.
Since the start of the season, the testimonies are coming in and the presidents are not denying it. On the contrary, they take as an argument the new provisions of the Ivorian Football Federation which stipulate that clubs can recruit as they wish, but are only obliged to pay 20 professional players from their squad. The others are considered amateurs.
"The president of Korhogo made us believe that we will receive signing bonuses, but we have not received anything yet. He had made us believe that we would have this bonus before we start the championship. When the subsidy of 15,220 euros from the Federation falls, he made us believe that there is no money. Our salary for the other month (August, editor's note) has not been paid as well as the month of September. However, all the clubs have been paid. But the COK did not give the salary of the players even the shoes with the bonus of signature. This means that we started the championship without anything before being sent back... There are younger players and fathers who can't afford to send their children to school. The Federation must do something," a player told Sport News Africa on conditions of anonymity.
Korhogo, which has since paid some of the dues, is the champion in this area. The club from the north of the Ivory Coast has registered 69 players for the 2022-2023 season but has only kept 20, so 49 are out. USC Bassam has also dismissed 12 players, more than a third of whom were claiming their signing bonuses from last season, as has Adiaké, which has dismissed 7. Two other teams whose identities we have not been able to verify have let go of around 20 youngsters, according to our information. And the list is not exhaustive. All without paying them anything because most have only verbal contracts, and the Federation does not care.
Seen from afar, the championship of Côte d'Ivoire clearly looks like a field of exploitation of young athletes since the beginning of this season where the minimum salary has been set at 143 euros. Many of the younger players have left the benches. So they only have soccer as an outlet. This leaves the door open to crooked managers who make them believe that the mere fact that they have a place in a squad is enough. They don't need money either.
"This business of 20 professional players whose salaries a club has to pay properly and take care of is killing our youth. It is difficult to play without money. Since the Federation said that only 20 players per club should be taken care of, the number of bad payers, and therefore people who exploit children, has increased. The kids all want to play, so they have to accept everything. As a leader but also as a father, it breaks my heart. The consequence is that as soon as you open your mouth a little, they chase you away. It's a real shame," said Abdoulaye Koné, president of Denguélé d'Odienné, leader of League 1, speaking to Sport News Africa.