Each year, Africans footballers move to Turkey with dreams of playing professionally. Spending their family’s savings on rogue agents, they travel to Istanbul believing that a professional football career awaits them. Unlike the thousands of migrants who have used Turkey as an illegal gateway to Europe for decades, Adegeye, Dayo and Kaffo are three of many players who were falsely invited into the country to play football. Finding themselves in the same predicament as other migrants, Black Diamonds follows these men within the African community in Istanbul as they struggle with poverty and racism while mourning the death of Dayo in their quest to assimilate into Turkish society while stopping at nothing to achieve their football dream.
“In my country, no one would ever treat me like this,” Kaffo, a Football player from Lagos, Nigeria, said to me as we walked up Akagalar Cd in Istanbul while a group of young Turkish men heckle him from a distance. “Here, in Turkey”, Kaffo says while ignoring their comments, “I’m just another Nigger.”
Since 2010, I’ve been documenting the lives of these men within their community as they’ve moved back and forth between Turkey and Nigeria, forging careers through football, factory work and Internet scams. Today, it’s estimated that Turkey’s African community is close to 1.5 million. But being of African descent in Turkey has never been easy, where racism and ethnic discrimination have always been present.
These men, many much older than their passports state, have lived a life hidden from view, rarely leaving the safety of their apartments and community until recently. They've become trapped as they perform as elite athletes and yet are seen as either replaceable or disposable, working for far less money than Turkish citizens. This story isn’t only about football and migration but also one of survival, kinship and the harsh realities of being African in Turkey.