Good Samaritan William Wilberforce will be turning in his grave at
But the humanitarian responsible for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire would approve of England Under-21 striker Marvin Sordell’s crusade to stamp out slavery’s nasty little brother, human trafficking.
Donot adjust your sets, do not rub your eyes. Yes, it’s a footballer whose first refuge is not the tattoo parlour or a fast-car showroom.
And if Sordell is successful in his efforts to combat a modern scourge of mankind, he will join a holy trinity of namesakes deserving of the moniker Marvellous Marvin – boxing great Marvin Hagler, soul legend Marvin Gaye and Hank Marvin of The Shadows.
On a season-long loan at Charlton, a club with decent values in its DNA, Sordell has found contentment off the pitch in a project which has brought out the best in his philanthropic nature.
“Last year, on the infamous England Under-21s trip to Serbia, I read a book called Trafficked – the true story of a British girl who was forced to become a sex slave after being duped into travelling across Europe,” said Sordell, whose adopted club host Middlesbrough at the Valley today.
“Thatwas an eventful trip. It made me sad that, in the 21st century, black players can be racially abused on all sides of the ground and no one interested in doing anything about it.
“Butthe book was so powerful I recommended it to my followers on Twitter and soon afterwards, when the author, Sophie Hayes, got in touch, I was keen to find out if I could do anything to help.
“I’mlucky I can use football’s high profile to raise awareness of the evil human trafficking trade, and to help give Sophie’s charity, Sport for Freedom, the platform it deserves.
“WhenI was in the youth team at Watford, the first-team squad included Al Bangura, who was trafficked to Europe from Sierra Leone. Although it passed me by at the time – as a young player you only hear bits of the narrative, not the full story – I’ve grown to understand what happenedto him. It all makes sense.
“Youhear of kids in Africa who are sold the dream of being a professional footballer in Europe, with all the trappings of fame and glamour that come with it. I’ve heard rumours there is a player currently in the Premier League who was trafficked.”
Sordell,22, was so moved by the book he created his own Marvin Sordell Foundation, and launched it four months ago with a dinner in Mayfair, tohighlight the sickening trade in human misery.
Englandcricketer Steve Finn, rugby star Danny Cipriani and Sordell’s Bolton team-mates attended. For his next project he plans to visit a safe housein Mexico, run by the Sophie Hayes Foundation, to see how victims of trafficking can rebuild their lives.
“Theconnection between playing football and campaigning against human trafficking isn’t obvious, but I suppose I’m not your stereotypical footballer,” he added.
“I’m happy to commit to a cause I believe in, and helping Sophie seemed the right thing to do. I’m not worried about what people in my profession think, but it’s also important to acknowledge the purpose of my involvement isn’t to send people on guilt trips.
“Iwas empowered by Sophie’s book as I felt better-educated after reading it, and this isn’t something where I just want to dip my toe in the water and move on. She went through a lot of tough times and is by far the strongest person I’ve met.
“Oneday, I would like to emulate her work and establish a long-term project of my own, replicating William Wilberforce and his abolition ofslavery – because trafficking is modern-day slavery.”
Sucha worthy crusade would once have been harmful to a footballer’s career.In less cerebral cases than Sordell, it would have interfered with driving around town and drinking overpriced champagne in roped-off areas of nightclubs popular with the slapperati.
ButMarvellous Marvin is smarter than your average footballer. Valiants fans will enjoy watching him play – and trafficking victims will be gladof the day Sordell took it upon himself to ensure fortune favours the slave.