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Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 19:23 UK

Irish downturn hits Benin player

By Stephen Fottrell
BBC Sport

Romauld Boco
Boco says it's hard for everyone in Ireland, including footballers

With the great wealth circulating in professional football, it is hard to imagine how footballers playing in Europe's leagues could be seriously affected by the global recession.

But in one of Europe's most extreme examples of economic boom to bust - Ireland - the downturn has created a "troubled" situation for foreign players, according to one young African footballer.

Benin midfielder Romauld Boco played in France and England before moving to League of Ireland Premier Division side Sligo Rovers last year, after captaining his country at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Like the country as a whole, the League of Ireland had in recent years found itself in a much better position financially.

But it has recently been forced to cut its cloth, putting players like Boco in danger of finding themselves without a club.

"When I came here last year it was very good, but this year we are struggling," he told BBC Sport.

"We need players and the money in Ireland has become very hard to come by - the money is not there and we are starting to [feel] troubled.

"The financial situation is difficult, so clubs cannot get many players in.

"At our club it's hard to [bring in] players and get a result."

Every club is struggling. They don't know if they will be able to pay [wages] next week or the week after and they are asking players to take pay cuts

Romauld Boco

It's a common complaint across a league that over the past several years transformed itself from a semi-professional league to a fully professional one.

Like the country itself, the League of Ireland became cash-rich quickly but soon saw its fortunes reversed as belts were tightened and the country slipped into recession.

Many of the overseas players that have played in the league have traditionally based themselves at one of the four clubs in the capital city, Dublin - St Patrick's Athletic, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Shelbourne - but Boco found himself moving further afield.

The man responsible for bringing the 23-year-old to the north-western Irish town was Englishman Paul Cook, who managed Boco at English League Two side Accrington Stanley, and then went on to take over at Sligo.

'The Rovers' ended the 2008 season [the League of Ireland is a summer league] by securing a place in next season's first Uefa Europa League, but a change in fortunes on and off the field has seen them drop down the domestic table this year.

Romauld Boco
Boco spent three years in England at Accrington Stanley

"Last year when we started the season, we had many players and the club spent a lot of money and everyone was happy," he said.

"We started this season with 22 players and now we have 16.

"At training it's very hard to train when you have 16 players, if you get two or three injuries it makes it difficult, and it has had a big impact on our league position [they currently lie sixth out of 10 teams].

"But at the minute, every club is struggling. They don't know if they will be able to pay [wages] next week or the week after and they are asking players to take pay cuts.

"You see, it's the same everywhere in Ireland, but it has touched football now as well."

Boco says he is unsure about his own future but remains under contract at the Irish club until November.

"A lot of players are not getting contracts now, but we will have to see.

"I'm just trying to play well every time I go out there for Sligo and after, if things get better, we'll see what I can get."

Sligo will have to do without Boco himself for a month as he is currently away on international duty with Benin as they face two crucial matches against Sudan and Mali.

'The Squirrels' are still in the hunt for a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in a group that also includes the formidable group favourites Ghana, who beat them 1-0 in March.

But Boco insists he and his fellow Squirrels are "not scared" and are ready for the challenge ahead.

Plenty of challenges all round in the coming months for the Beninese midfielder, then.

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see also
Vital 2010 points at stake
05 Jun 09 |  African
Boco gets apology for racial slur
01 May 09 |  African
Record decline hits Irish economy
26 Mar 09 |  Business
Irish economy goes into recession
25 Sep 08 |  Business
Homesick Boco leaves Accrington
07 Feb 08 |  Accrington
Boco says Benin has no fear
01 Dec 07 |  African

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