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Football trafficking report wins award for academics

COMPELLING: Dr Yemisi Akinbobola (left) and Ogechi Ekeanyanwu (right) with their awards after the ceremony in Johannesburg

TWO ACADEMICS from Birmingham City University have been named as winners in the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2016 Awards.

Dr Yemisi Akinbobola and Professor Paul Bradshaw, from the university’s School of Media, along with journalist Ogechi Ekeanyanwu, have been recognised for their investigation into football player trafficking in West Africa.

They were presented with the Sport Reporting Award at a gala ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Their report highlights the plight of the 15,000 aspiring footballers from West African countries, such as Nigeria and Cameroon, who try to realise their dream of playing for a top-flight European club each year. In doing so, many fall victim to fake agents, enduring perilous journeys across Africa and the Mediterranean, as well as costing their families thousands of dollars, with many relatives ending up destitute.

Fewer than one per cent of those who enter this process actually achieve their footballing dream. The independent judging panel, chaired by South African journalist Ferial Haffajee, gave the Birmingham academics high praise.

The panel’s citation said:

“This is a very powerful and compelling story about the plight of aspiring footballers in Nigeria, who became victims of unscrupulous agents, who in turn exploit them with the promises of brilliant careers in Europe; they then abandon them to fend for themselves in foreign lands.

“It’s a story written in a very clear format, also demonstrating the reporters’ efforts to cover all facets of the issue, including contacting the federations of the countries where the young footballers were supposed to be taken to.”

The CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2016 competition is open to African professional journalists who have produced a story in print or broadcast on TV, radio or online. This year’s competition received a record number of more than 1,600 entries.

Nigerian-born Dr Akinbobola is the founder and publisher of IQ4News, which produced the trafficking story before it was published in Nigeria’s Premium Times. Dr Akinbobola was awarded an MA and a PhD from Birmingham City University (BCU) and is today a visiting lecturer and researcher at the university, with an interest in digital journalism and African feminism.

She said:

“Winning our category was an absolute dream come true.

“In my acceptance speech, I highlighted the need to recognise the challenges that African women in the media face. Particularly those like myself, with young children.”

Professor Bradshaw, who leads an MA course in online journalism at BCU, has an international reputation for developing online journalism. He has been featured on both Journalism.co.uk’s list of leading innovators in journalism and media, and the US-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies’ list of the 35 most influential people in social media.

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