Like thousands of football-mad teenagers in Mali, Aboubacar Sidibé dreamed of one day playing for Chelsea. So when a football manager approached him with the promise of a contract with a club in India – a launchpad, he was told, to the European clubs – he jumped at the chance.
It didn’t matter that he was just 17. Or that he would have to pay the manager more than £2,700. It seemed a price worth paying to kickstart his football career.
Weeks later, Sidibé was indeed playing football abroad, but he was no closer to Stamford Bridge. Instead, he found himself kicking a torn football around a dusty pitch in a country he had never heard of before: Nepal.
“When I arrived it was not at all what the manager had told me … Every time I get in touch with him he says it’ll be OK. But it will not be OK. I hate him. He cheated me,” says Sidibé.
Ranked 162 out of 207 nations by FIFA, Nepal is an unlikely destination for aspiring footballers. But it does have an entry policy that allows visitors from almost any country to get a visa on arrival.