Ex-Arsenal star Ian Wright has hit back at suggestions that he is exploiting South African children at a football academy. The head of the South African FA accused him of “raping the country, then running away”.
Wright is one of a group of investors in the Cape United academy. He has denied that he is using the kids for his own gain. He said: “I have been to the townships in Cape Town. I have looked into the eyes of these boys and I know what this opportunity means to them. So to be accused of raping a country and exploiting the kids is a disgusting, cheap shot. I will not stand for it.”
He added: “It’s a small investment, not millions. But now I’m being accused of running some sort of international football slave trade, callously trading young kids around the world to make a penny here, a penny there.
“Not only is that a sickening allegation and an appalling insult to all of us, it’s a physical impossibility. All the kids at the academy have to be registered to Cape United. The club are not permitted to move any of those players until they reach the age of 18.
“In other words when they are young adults, free to do whatever they want in the world. So it’s simply impossible to be flogging 14-year-old kids around the world. It just can’t happen and absolutely nobody would ever want to see it happen, either.”
Alex Song, Mamady Sidibe, Stephen Warnock, Danny Collins, Julio Arca and Mart Poom are also investors in the project.