Human trafficking has emerged as one of the most significant humanitarian issues of the present era, constituting a highly exploitative form of transnational organized crime and operating through a complex weaving of illicit and illegal global networks.1 While academic interest in human trafficking has long been concentrated on forced prostitution and the predicament of women and young girls, there is also a growing, if still relatively modest, recognition of trafficking for other purposes, opening the door to a more expansive approach that touches upon a diverse array of highly exploitative labour practices. Despite its being virtually absent from academic and political discourse, this chapter will seek to explore the nexus between the phenomenon of trafficking, child labour and the realm of sport, wherein the quest to unearth inexpensive and talented reservoirs of child athletes has fuelled the crystallization of a global trading network in adolescent bodies. In continuity with most forms of child trafficking, the rapid expansion of

the ‘global village’ has proved the catalyst behind the emergence of insidious flows of children through expansive transnational networks, with alarming numbers of young athletes being trafficked into the epicentral economies of Western Europe and North America. Perhaps, inevitably, this recruitment, sale and trafficking of children in sport occurs predominantly through a dynamic of economic exploitation, as powerful sports franchises scour the less affluent regions of South America, Africa and Asia in search of untapped resources of athletic talent. Indeed, as success in professional sport is increasingly measured in economic terms, the most powerful franchises and clubs are driven to seek more economical sources of labour in order to remain competitive – a trend that Paulo David argues has been the catalyst for the recent emergence of such a pernicious trade in child athletes.2 Perhaps, surprisingly, this exploitative procurement of child athletes has not been subject to the kind of strict regulation one might expect, McArdle and Giulianotti arguing that sport remains one of the few domains – if not the only domain – that has been seemingly impermeable to the legal and moral obligation to regulate and safeguard the welfare of its stakeholders, especially that of minors.3