Aspiring Australian footballer Alex Sporea says an unnamed Romanian club asked him to pay €250,000 to cover club fees in order to gain his first professional contract.
The 22-year-old, who does not have an agent, said he is currently training with a Romanian Division 1 team which he won’t name.
Romanian-born Sporea grew up in Melbourne, beginning his football development with a four-year youth spell at Bowen Soccer Academy, playing Super League and subsequently had spells at Northcote FC and South Melbourne.
According to Sporea, the lower tiers in Romania are still considered professional which gives him opportunity, as opposed to Australia which has one professional league.
He says “there were always talks” with A-League clubs, but none were willing to give him a trial. Despite Romania already having a bad reputation, he feels he could get noticed by other European clubs by residing in the country of his birth.
He also explained speaking Romanian helped with his decision after he had various opportunities in Europe due to his connection with English Championship side Queens Park Rangers’ co-chairman Ruben Gnanalingam.
Every footballer wants to ply their trade in Europe, but Sporea explained there's a dark side to that journey in Romania.
“The corruption is horrible, it’s everywhere, yet I’m the only one voicing it out to the media,” Sporea told FourFourTwo.
“The federation fees to make a player a professional to paper is about €2,000. An official from the club including a coach told me the fees are €250,000 to make me pro.
“My end goal is to fight off football corruption because I have been through it all my life. Being and seeing kids similar to me, growing up from a low socio-economic background, not being able to make it in the professional world because club officials are looking for quick money.
“For example, coaches taking money off parents or sponsors to get a footballer to play. Parents should know about the challenges their children will face when coming to Europe. I decided to do this alone, so you need to have a bulletproof mindset.
“Clubs are just looking for money, I guess it’s because supporters are not coming to the games so they need a way to finance the club.”
He said he still keeps in touch with Gnanalingam and maintains his confidence in making it as a professional.
“It’s so disappointing when a club just turns to you and says ‘well it’s going to cost this much to make you a professional to paper',” he said.
“The club I’m training at keep calling me every day back to training, so I guess they like something.
“I had a friendly, I came off the bench, played from the 60th minute and I scored two goals. Having a Romanian passport helps but not when clubs are struggling financially.
“Truth is you are walking like your dream and you are acting as professional as possible. I guess the world is getting greedier.”
Sporea is currently a deferred student at Swinburne University, Melbourne, studying a degree in Business.
And should the dilemma arise one day of picking a Romanian or Socceroos jersey, he said he would happily wear the green and gold.
“My work ethic, attitude and never-give-up mentality - the way I was developed with traditional values,” Sporea said.
“I’m here in Europe fighting for my dreams, in a third-world country filled with corruption.”
Main Photo: Sporea at Stadionul Anghel Iordanescu in Voluntari. Provided by the player.