Migrant 'footballer' almost lands Italian deal

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Patrick Browne - [email protected]
Migrant 'footballer' almost lands Italian deal
The real Lamine Diatta in action for Saint-Étienne. Photo:latouffedisco / Flickr

An 18-year-old migrant from Gambia wowed an Abruzzo football club with his silky football skills after convincing them he was a Senegalese football player.


The aspiring footballer, known as Issiaka, even took part in a couple of training matches before managers at Chieti Calcio,  a club in Serie D - the fourth tier of Italian professional football - realized he'd faked it.

Since crossing the Mediterranean, Issiaka has been living at a migrant centre in Chieti, a city in Abruzzo, and decided to try his luck at getting a professional contract with the local team. 

He managed to secure a trial by telling club officials that he was a professional Senegalese player called Lamine Diatta and that he was looking for a club in Italy - he even presented them with a CV outlining his talents.

Officials may have even confused him for another Lamine Diatta -  the ex-Senegal captain, now aged 40, who enjoyed a successful career with Newcastle, Beşiktaş, Saint-Étienne and Lyon.

Impressed by his skills and alleged experience, the club duly offered him a trial. Issiaka took part in training sessions and played in a couple of training matches.

At the end of the trial, Chieti Calcio was ready to offer him a contract and take him to their pre-season training camp.

But there was just one snag.

“We asked for his documents, which is something we do with all our footballers,” the president of Chieti's youth team, Massimiliano Rebba, told Il Fatto Quotidiano.

“We understood there was something wrong but we waited for him to get his documents for a couple of days. When he couldn't produce them we didn't follow the deal up any more.”

A spokesperson for Chieti Calcio could not be reached for comment when contacted by The Local.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Italian Football Federation was unable to comment on the case due to a lack of information, but added that "professional football contracts are governed by state and sporting laws".

But while he is unlikely to be plying his trade in Serie A anytime soon, Issiaka can content himself with playing for one of the grassroots organizations that are opening their arms to football-playing migrants.

"At an amateur level there are quite a few migrant teams and migrant footballers," the Italian Football Federation spokesperson told The Local.

"Football can and does play an important role in helping migrants integrate.”


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