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'Child snatching' rocks German league

The transfers of two 13-year-olds to Bundesliga clubs Hoffenheim and VfL Wolfsburg have triggered a row over top clubs' efforts to attract younger players with critics calling for an end to "child snatching".

sports Updated: Jan 13, 2012 00:43 IST

The transfers of two 13-year-olds to Bundesliga clubs Hoffenheim and VfL Wolfsburg have triggered a row over top clubs' efforts to attract younger players with critics calling for an end to "child snatching".

The two players, from Berlin and Hamburg, will now move to Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg respectively, hundreds of miles from their homes, with the full support of their parents.

"We have to accept the transfer but in my view he will not be able to deliver 100% in Wolfsburg," said St Pauli youth director Joachim Philipkowski over the departure of their player. "He will be taken out of his familiar environment. I don't think this is the right way."

Expressing worry
Several other teams as well as the German football league (DFL), which runs the top divisions, and the country's football association (DFB) have expressed concern. "There used to be a gentlemen's agreement in the past that one should not take away talent," said DFL managing director Holger Hieronymus.

"Therefore, there is the wish to have such an agreement again."

VfB Stuttgart and Hanover 96 have opposed such transfers.

"I am not a friend of ripping people, who are too young, from their social environment," said Hanover sports director Joerg Schmadtke. Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg have defended their actions, saying such transfers were common practice in every other major European league.

"I don't know what this hypocrisy is all about," said Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath. "You have to get the players early if you want to develop them."

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