9 months, 4 clubs, 3 continents – and not a single game. Who is this crook?

If you ever see the movie about the crazy story of Bernie of Verhagen, then it will probably slowly – from the journalist. Then, slowly, the fun begins: identity theft, fleeing police, and a massive network of lies… and ends with the moment of violence, suddenly will understand that the victims in this story are all the same.

***

Sam van Raalte, chief editor, Vice Sports in the Netherlands. He has a podcast, and he writes articles. He talks about the fan culture and martial arts, but he has another passion – a strange and inexplicable transfers

“I love the stories from the very bottom of the market,’ he says, barely holding back laughter. – Pro players who do not pull the higher League, but who are willing to go though on the world to proudly call themselves professionals.”

One June day in 2019 van Raalte studied Transfermarkt website, which tells in detail about all football transitions – in search of the Dutch, who went to try their luck in other countries. He hoped to find the hero of his next interview. The majority of applicants was nothing special, but one winger has attracted his attention. He played for “Dinamo-Auto” is a tiny club from Tiraspol.

And what, I wonder. “Dinamo-Auto” is generally based in the breakaway Republic of Transnistria. Moreover, the player returned home, not having to never go on the field. “This was obviously Amateur, which went to some wilderness, and then not even spent a single game. I had to know what happened,” admitted van Raalte.

The player was Bernie Verhagen – 25-year-old native of Suriname who grew up in Tilburg, near the border with Belgium. Before a professional club he played almost ten years ago, the Dutch “Willem II”. No one knew him, he didn’t stand out. How he ended up in Moldova?

So van Raalte invited him to participate in his podcast. Will take a few days, and Verhagen will call in his office in Amsterdam.

“Look, appeared on the threshold a quiet boy in a sweater from Balenciaga with gold earrings. We talked for about 45 minutes. He shared a huge number of hilarious anecdotes from his life. I realize now that he prepared for our meeting. He with round eyes talked about potholes on the Moldovan roads and how new team-mates, never in my life seen black in the soul, impressed by the size of his penis. A lot of different stories about the cultural differences.”

“He told me about the first training of “Dinamo-Auto”, which he barely survived because of the cold, and the problems with his agent. I thought, well, okay, he played so-so and the club decided to terminate the contract. Another story, of which there are thousands.”

Podcast has released the fifth of July. Turned out pretty good, and van Raalte was happy. He received two emails. The first player who played with Verhagen at the Amateur level. He wrote that he was quite surprised by the fact that deprived of talent Verhagen became a foreigner in another country, even in such a small team. The second letter deserves special attention – it said that the words of Verhagen’s better not to believe.

Van Raalte contacted Verhagen, who immediately demanded the names of the “haters”. The journalist refused, and the player hung up. Weird. Maybe really something is wrong. Perhaps you should continue to follow the career of the player, which is what the editor was quite sure, probably will sink into the lower ranks of Dutch football.

“I didn’t expect to see his name, but then the story abruptly began to gain momentum.”

***

July 26, “Cape town city” of South Africa has announced a new signing. On his page in the social network club posted a picture (already deleted) where the owner John Comitis shakes hands with a man in a black hooded jacket and cool smile on her face.

The newcomer was Verhagen. At the club, he spent not more than a month. On the field he never came out.

22 Aug “Audaks Italiano” from the first Chilean division has announced a new signing. “Rookie was signed because of international relations “Audaks Italiano” – proudly stated by President Lorenzo Antillo. “We hope that he will stay with us until December”.

The new Legionnaire was Verhagen. The club spent 61 days. On the field he never came out.

November 5, “Viborg” from the first division of Denmark has announced a new enhancement. The legionary received a t-shirt with the number 28. About him flattering sports Director Jesper of Friedberg: “it’s crazy technology, and to follow his game will be very interesting. Was advised by people close to the club so we felt it was a logical signing. Now we have to help him open up”.

The owner of crazy technology and the vast potential was Verhagen. He stayed in the club for 19 days. He never stepped on the field.

By this point you can already guess why the Verhagen in the Netherlands called “spookvoetballer” – or a player-Ghost. For the nine months he toured three continents, never played for their clubs. From Moldova to South Africa, Chile and Denmark – not weak this way. Especially considering that the previous game in which he actually participated, took place in the “Den Dyungen” of the eighth Dutch division.

In football strange transfers are not uncommon, but when one person travels a lot for such a period, this is bizarre. Why are all these clubs agreed to the purchase of a beginner with zero reputation? Why is he never in them did not play.

To answer these questions was not so easy. Van Raalte did a great job trying to untangle this knot, and he was joined by colleagues from Denmark. We still don’t know all the facts, but one thing is certain: the story of the elusive winger much like the movie “Catch me if you can” with Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Viborg” claims to be a victim of fraud, which includes fraud, forgery and identity theft. In the past year, the club appealed to the Danish police. The remaining three clubs did not go to such measures, but it’s safe to say that they were deceived. Next month in Viborg held court over the player.

***

When Verhagen was in “Viborg”, van Raalte again contacted him. He was perplexed at the player’s transfer in “Cape town” and “Audaks Italiano”, and he wanted to know what the agent represented the interests of the winger, and as such transactions generally rotate.

Verhagen this time was not happy to hear van Raalte, so that the conversation didn’t last long. “I’ll ask for more I pull for every x*RNI” – he said and hung up.

But the journalist not to stop if he was on the trail. He contacted the “Den Dungeon” the scout told him that Verhagen actually participated in a small number of matches, and he “does not remember”. His words were confirmed by coach “Den Dungen” Andres Bass, who gave an interview to Bold.dk: “He’s a quick player, and that, in General, everything.” Bass, ex-player of “Næstved” from Denmark, remembers Verhagen came to audition, but did not participate in the match due to outright failure of the warm-up. “I was shocked how bad he played.”

November 24, van Raalte released their second (of five) episode devoted to the Ghost player. Verhagen already wrote him a TEXT demanding to leave him alone. He even threatened court. You can understand his nervousness: about him are already written in the press.

The Danish newspaper BT argued that the transition to the “Cape town” was organized by Mo Sinochem, Director of sports Agency Stellar Group, which is already working with Gareth Bale and Saulem. Sinuh contact Vasyl Barbis, a South African agent. He told him that he has a player who signed a lucrative contract with the Chinese, but which needed the temporary club. Barbis could not refuse the chance to work with representatives of football, so he immediately went to Comitia – the owner of “Cape town”.

“We about it knew nothing, – says Julian Bailey, the representative of “Cape town”. We were shown a few videos, and the Director liked them. In the end, the player came to the training, and we signed it”.

As BT says, there was only one problem: not Mo sinuh talked to Barbis and opportunist, who uploaded his picture from the Internet. By the time the connection came real Mo, it was too late.

According to Verhagen, he also thought that Sinouh was real, but he Barbis believer in the fact that “Sinochem” was himself Verhagen. “He didn’t play football for us. He just wanted to fuck with our brains, and then cut to others. Well, to hell with him.”

The next victim was “Audaks Italiano”. It’s time again “Mo senoh” – this time he tried to fool the Chilean agent of Gaston gonzález Pesola. It all started with a fake letter supposedly sent Ajax. It was mentioned a potential offer one of the customers Pesoli. The letter asked to contact Sinochem that confirmed the interest. One condition – to give a chance to one of his players. So Verhagen was in La Florida. “He came to audition, but since we still had place for foreign players we signed,” explains Antila, President of the club.

Much the same happened with “Viborg”. The club already wary of the player whose name is connected with many scandals (about them later), and after the publication of the material in the newspaper then immediately decided to tell what I think about your signature.

Their story is expected similar to the previous: “Mo sinuh, transfer to China, short-term contract without conditions. “Viborg” admitted that he was interested in the chance to work with one of the most respected agencies, so they signed the Verhagen as a goodwill gesture to strengthen the relationship. In November, after a disgusting first workout, the rookie, asked directly, what a strange life he leads. But then the time arrived a letter from Chile, right on the official letterhead with a seal. It looked very convincing, and the player is not kicked.

Now no doubt there is fraud. “Viborg” is not in financial hardship, as neither salary nor bonus to the agent have not been paid, but the professional pride of the club was dealt a lot of damage,” read an official statement.

There is no doubt that the same feeling in Moldova, South Africa and Chile. After the revelations of Igor Dobrovolskiy, head coach of “Dinamo-Auto”, admitted that he had never even heard of Verhagen. Soon the news of the signing of Verhagen has disappeared from the official website. The Athletic tried to contact the club, but has not yet received a response.

Cape town also argues that Verhagen did not pay. Comitis says that the player did not even have time to register.

“I was involved in a nasty story,” admitted Antelo, President of the Chilean club. More he refused to comment – as an agent of Pecola. But “Viborg” has decided not to remain silent, despite the fact that the whole story looks humiliating for him. Two days later after the official statement contact Verhagen was terminated, and the documents were handed over to the police. 10 June Verhagen was submitted allegations of forgery and fraud. August 18 to face trial. Of course, he denies everything and says all that he believed in what Mo Sinouh was real.

***

Fortunately, since November not a single club has become a victim of scams Verhagen. For one simple reason: he was in prison.

Here the story becomes even murkier. We love the stories about the fake players: Carlos Kaiser, Ali Dia, Alessandro Zarrelli make you smile with their antics, because the real victims of their crimes was not. But Verhagen – not so. In the eyes of many (and now so says the Danish justice system) he is a dangerous man.

Cost for the Dutchman to land in Viborg in October, as stories about his personal life became public. Mostly gossiped about Nayarit Musi – the young Chilean, who was his companion in Denmark.

On the third of November the Chilean newspaper La Tercera published an interview with Verhagen. Before video call Dutch local journalists confused Musi posts in Instagram in which he claimed that he was a hostage of the player, besides beating her. During a conversation with journalists Musi acted as interpreter. She told me how hard it is to live “with a man who would not let her out of the hotel” and that “uses violence”. In the end, she added that many things she said were inflated.

November 26, a few hours after the termination of the contract with “Viborg” in the main station Verhagen and Musi quarreled, and security cameras captured how he drags his companion. Soon after he was arrested.

The next day, after the hearing, which was held four hours, Verhagen remained under arrest. Even in court, he continued to dream of future football achievements: “I have been in contact with another Danish club,” he said to the plaintiff Katrina Melhor in response to the question about where he thinks to work on. As far as “Mo Sinuhe, he deceived everyone,” said the Dutchman.

In a period of a few weeks in the direction of Verhagen flew in a dizzying number of charges. The Danish newspaper Politiken claimed that he stole money and jewelry from his ex-girlfriend. Van Raalte spoke with many friends Verhagen, including his relatives and they all said that he circled them around your finger. The words of one woman reports BT: “He’s incredibly manipulative people. I have never met a person who would so aggressive was lying.”

In mid-December, “football player” and all ran away – he even tried to deceive the police, put in your Instagram information that he allegedly was going to Sweden. The search lasted for 12 hours, and eventually found him in the basement of the house in Holstebro – the town near Viborg.

19 Feb Verhagen filed a dozen charges: threat to two people in Denmark (my mother and father with child), rape, assault, robbery, sex contact without consent of the partner and escape from the police.

June 24, Verhagen pleaded guilty to the escape from the police. Otherwise, he said, he is not guilty. Musi testified via video link from the Danish Embassy in Chile, and the judge Jakob Jonsson Svenning found the player guilty in nine (of 10) cases, not only proved his involvement in the rape. The sentence – 15 months in prison.

***

Melhor – plaintiff concluded his speech succinct phrase: “Bernie Verhagen lying – and he knows how to lie well”.

Whoever played the fake agent, he did it sloppy. Statements about the former clubs of the player was easily checked by the Danish journalists. A letter from “Ajax” Chilean agent was accompanied by a grammatical errors and was signed by the name “Mark Overmars”, although in reality sports Director of the Dutch club’s name is “Marc”.

Barbis told Vice that the documents “from China” he received from the email address that ends in .the ch – domain of Switzerland. The one who’s doing all this, “either the stupidest or the smartest man I’ve ever encountered,” added the agent.

Anyway, to deny the fact that Wheeler-dealer approach to their work seriously, you can’t. First contact with “Viborg” occurred two months prior to the contract, at least this time the club was in constant contact with the “Sinochem”. Verhagen, according to “Viborg”, able to charm and knew how to win.

“He gave the impression of a guy who never took himself seriously and just went with it – says van Raalte. And he is a funny person that immediately has you to him. But in fact he knows how to manipulate people like no other”.

Verhagen’s attempts to break into the world of professional football did not begin in 2019. His ex-girlfriend told Bold.dk about how he wore a tracksuit Copenhagen to convince her that he in the past played for him. Then did the same with a form of “Midtjylland”, laying out photos in a social network. On the old post in Instagram, which has since been removed, it is possible to find the picture where Verhagen holds the yellow-and-black form “Hobro” is the third of the team for which he played.

In an interview with Bold.dk ex-girlfriend of a failed star claimed that he worked on a project to create their own club. “He was called “Austurland”, and he even had the logo with the deer, I saw how he was drawing it on my computer”.

On the page in Instagram there are only 15 records. The oldest dates back to 13 February 2018 – it Verhagen posing in a white t-shirt with the Nike logo. The last entry was made in August last year – it in a new form, “Cape town”, and it looks downright official.

In Instagram, the Dutchman calls himself “a professional footballer”, which of course is never true, as if he wanted to. No, much better described by a quote that was splashed once in his Facebook. It can be seen directly above the information that he worked for Copenhagen. Quote reads: “If the plan didn’t work, change the plan but never the goal.”

Text: The Athletic
Translation and adaptation of Denis KOSHELEV

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