Soccer scam a kick in the guts for kids
By MITCHELL DALE
YOUNG Luke Groth is only nine years old, but he already knows when he has been stooged.
Luke loves his soccer. Lives, eats and breathes it.
Like many young Coffs Coast soccer players, Luke couldn't wait for the ESP soccer clinic last December after his parents paid $125 for him to attend.
But around 7pm on the Friday before the weekend of the clinic, Luke's mother, Debbie, received a phone call from ESP to say the clinic was cancelled.
She was told another would be held at a later date and that ESP would be in touch.
Like many others, Debbie is still waiting for the return call and her chances of hearing from ESP now appear slim (see story - Soccer kids ripped off).
When Debbie told Luke what had happened, his frank response said it all.
"We've been scammed, have we Mum?" Luke said.
Unfortunately, it appears the answer is yes.
"Luke loves soccer, all he wants to do is play soccer for Australia," Debbie said.
"We have four kids on one income, so $125 is a lot of money to lose.
"I would love to have five minutes alone with them."
While Luke was just looking forward to having a kick and picking up some new skills, others were lured by the promise of an opportunity to gain national recruitment.
One angry parent, who didn't want to be named, said her 16-year-old son saw the clinic as a chance to grab the attention of national selectors.
"You don't know where an opportunity will come from," she said.
"It's not like his dream of playing for Australia is some fly-by-night thing, he has wanted to do it since he was eight and over the past two years he has trained four nights a week.
"It just cuts me up that people can do that sort of thing to kids."
She said such an incident would have once had a disastrous effect on her family.
"We used to eat below-standard meals to pay for him to attend soccer clinics," she said.
"While we are not that bad any more, we're still not flush with cash.
"If this would have happened a few years ago, it would have taken food out of our children's mouths.
"Who is to say that didn't happen to another family (this time)?"