Are International Soccer Moguls Preying on the Dreams of the World’s Poor?

One Prodigy in a Million Could Become the Next Messi, but Many Young Players Sacrifice School and Family to Chase Glory

Over a decade ago, I was running on a treadmill at a hotel gym in downtown Cairo, where I was working as a journalist for The Associated Press. The place was small and gloomy, but given Cairo’s terrible traffic and pollution, it was one of my only workout options. The gym’s saving grace was that it had TVs that allowed me to watch European soccer matches while I ran.

On this particular day in 2007, a commercial showed a young boy playing soccer at a glittering sports academy called Aspire in …