The French startup “French Sport Tryouts” (FST) is calling on young Lebanese athletes to join their platform “Search Your Team” in hopes to connect them with trusted professionals looking for sport recruits.
The platform “SearchYourTeam” wants to make it possible for young sportsmen and women around the world, who dream of playing soccer professionally, to get recruited in Europe or the United States without getting scammed by false recruiting agencies.
It aims to put an end to the exploitation of young athletes from underprivileged backgrounds and protect them from being trapped in human trafficking, modern slavery, and possibly death.
Reaching Out to Lebanese
According to FST, the platform is now “trying to expand and set foot in Lebanon as it’s undergoing a harsh crisis economically and socially wise. Lebanese youth [are] being stripped of opportunities day after day, especially athletes.”
After speaking with three Lebanese athletes passionate about soccer, it became clear to French Sport Tryouts that the opportunities in Lebanon are limited.
“There is no future in [soccer] here in Lebanon, if you want to get into a respected club or even get a chance you must have connections. Corruption is deeply rooted in [soccer]. It’s all political, there is no financing and no dollars,” said Joseph from Zgharta, who joined their platform.
When asked if he knew any local organization that would provide sports opportunities to go abroad, he said, “No, not at all, I once talked to this guy that promised what you promised and it turned to be a big scam.”
The same goes for two girls from Tripoli, Maria Chedid and Stéphanie Kheir, who expressed that women’s teams are generally more neglected than men’s teams, especially in Lebanon.
“I would love to have the opportunity to travel abroad to pursue a professional football career since the opportunities in Lebanon are very rare,” said one of the girls.
From Humble Beginnings
The founders of this platform, Wesley Mukerinkindi and Gaetan Ekoondo, both came from countries in Central Africa (Rwanda and Kongo DRC) and grew up dreaming of sport. As children, they were able to escape poverty and war in their home countries and turned their lives around through sports.
They got amazing opportunities to play in Europe and later continued their studies in the United States by playing soccer. Gaetan was able to land a scholarship at Harvard University and Wesley got a sports scholarship at Utah State University Eastern.
With their platform “SearchYourTeam”, they were able to give the same chance to many young and talented athletes.
With the support of Lebanese-French Patrick Karam, the regional advisor of Île-de-France and Inspector General of Youth and Sports, Wesley and Geatan were able to start a partnership with the Parisian Olympic Committee (CROSIF).
“I felt like we needed to do something for the players in Lebanon, such as Joseph who participated in our juggling challenge with our partner Nyron Wau (Former Pro player at PSV Eindhoven Dutch D1 Team) ” Wesley told The961.
“Without Mr. Karam, we wouldn’t be where we are right now. He opened many doors for us and we are very thankful for it. That is why we wanted to give back by helping and giving opportunities in priority to student-athletes from his home country, Lebanon, which really deserves it with what’s happening over there from crises, poverty, corruption, and so on,” he added.
Young participants must simply send video CVs of themselves playing and showcasing their skills and the platform will act as a middle man between players and trusted coaches, clubs, or universities.
Furthermore, FST is currently expanding worldwide and is in the midst of talks with the United Nations via Luigi Limone and Ilias Chatzis (Head of Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).