Antoine Lemarie

Antoine Lemarie: How a bad agent brought me to the worst club

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Antoine Lemarie
Antoine Lemarie

Antoine Lemarie

Antoine Lemarie (27) has played for clubs in Singapore, Australia, England and Finland. In January he joined Greek third-tier side Paniliakos, but the French midfielder left within a week. This is his warning to other players.

An intermediary got my number and sent me a message, which I only noticed after I finished a training session.

He was so impatient that he had already sent me ten other messages and had added a second intermediary to the conversation, telling him I was not serious because I had not reacted. He had not even introduced himself, yet he wanted me to send my passport details.

Straightaway I didn’t have a good vibe, but the contract offer from Paniliakos was good, the salary was quite okay, and I was happy to go to Greece as I was looking for something new after three years in the Finnish third league. 

I had asked another intermediary to check the proposal. He made two comments and the first intermediary managed to get the contract adjusted including a 2,000 euro advance. We were surprised it went that smoothly.

I also checked his social media account. He posted about so many deals. Later, I realised those posts were fake.

He had already announced I was joining Paniliakos, even though it was not a done deal yet.

I didn’t know the club. I searched the internet for information, but never had direct contact with them.

I reasoned: I don’t like the guy, but if everything goes according to plan, then I only have to pay him a commission and that’s it.

Then all of a sudden, he mentioned that I had to pay for the flight myself, as the club refused to do that and he didn’t want to do it because another player had cheated him by not going. It was very strange, but I took the risk.

After a five-hour bus ride from the airport in Athens – he could have told me about that before! – the sporting director welcomed me and took me to my apartment. It was already dark. When I woke up the next morning, I noticed how dirty it was. There were cockroaches in the drawers, the shower had no hot water and a part of the wall fell on me.

My contract said that food was included, but the club only offered me one meal a day. My apartment also didn’t have any kitchen so that I could prepare food myself.

The training facilities were amateurish: holes in the pitch, lights that were broken. We trained in the twilight, which was dangerous on that pitch.

But the worst part was that some of my new team-mates straightaway told me that they were not getting paid and that a lot of foreign players had left already. Greek players experienced problems too. On my second day, one of the Brazilian players had left.

Although I had not received the 2,000 euro advance that I was promised, they wanted me to play Sunday’s game, four days after I arrived. I thought, I am not going to play before I get paid.

But I changed my mind when I noticed the atmosphere in the stadium, and they said everything would be fixed the next day. I played for 70 minutes.

Antoine Lemarie 2
Antoine Lemarie in action for FC Vaajakoski in Finland

At half-time, I witnessed something extraordinary: the other Brazilian player was attacked by the president and his bodyguard. He was in shock and packed his stuff. So much had happened to him in the four months he was there: he hadn’t got paid, the club had taken his passport, and they only returned it after his agent threatened to call the police. And now the president assaults him.

I also made up my mind. This was too much. The money didn’t matter anymore.

On Tuesday, I told the president and the sporting director that I wanted to leave. The president wanted to give me some money, although far less than the 2,000 euro he owed me, but I refused. I simply asked him to allow me to go on a free transfer.

They lied to me again by telling me that I had to wait because they didn’t have my papers yet. They also said that I played the match on someone else’s license. However, I found out that I was registered, went to the local office of the Greek FA, got my papers, and arranged a new moment for them to sign the papers.

They wanted to come to the apartment to collect the keys but I waited outside. I didn’t want to be with them inside the apartment. You never know what could happen.

The president arrived first, I showed him the paper and asked for the signature. He got angry and pretended to punch me. Then we waited until the sporting director was there as he spoke English.

They didn’t want to sign. The president lost it. He pushed me against the fence, grabbed me by the collar, and searched my pockets for the keys. Then his bodyguard appeared. This was getting too dangerous. I gave the keys and gave up on the signature.

I took my belongings and left for Athens as quickly as I could.

I had secretly recorded the event on my phone. Apparently, the president told me in Greek: "I am going to hang you by your feet" and "I will beat you up".  

I told my story on social media and it was picked up by Greek media. I got a little paranoid because I didn’t know how powerful these people were – and I still had to wait a day for my flight back home.

In the end, this adventure cost me money: the club had not paid me, and I paid for my own tickets and the extra night I stayed in Athens.

I heard that the Paniliakos players refused to practice after I had left and had a long conversation with the coach. They also spoke with worried fans, who came to the training ground to ask whether my story was true. Apparently, the fans said they would try to change things. It would be great if that happens – that way, I didn’t do this for nothing.

I am still waiting for a new club. I can play everywhere except in Greece because the president didn’t sign the papers.

I got messages from other players telling me they had been cheated by the same intermediary too and that they had paid him money. I was lucky that I had arranged to only pay him after I had signed with the club – meaning he got nothing from me.

Every week people approach me on LinkedIn and other social media platforms with contract deals or offers for trials, but you have to be very careful who you trust.

Next time, I will trust my instinct. Straightaway, I could sense that the intermediary was a scam, that he treated me like a piece of meat. My brother even advised me not to go because of all the strange things that happened before I went. I should have noticed the red flags.  

I am aware that I can be too eager, especially at a time when I am looking for a club. But you have to realise that you can get scammed easily.

So, my message to other players is this: be careful and ask your union for advice. Next time, I will only work with someone I trust.

The FIFPRO Legal Conference will take place at FIFPRO House in Hoofddorp, Netherlands on 15-16 March, where a range of ongoing issues relevant for union legal counsels at domestic and international level will be discussed.