The law will deal harshly with the sexual abuse of young boys at illegal soccer academies. That’s according to Police Minister Bheki Cele who raided one of the illegal academies in central Johannesburg.

One of the coaches arrested had been on the run. This was after he was granted bail after a previous arrest, but failed to appear in court.

SABC ‘s Special Assignment programme first exposed the illegal soccer academies in 2017.

Many teenage boys are lured from rural areas, mainly KwaZulu-Natal, with the promise of being featured in professional soccer teams in Johannesburg.

Their parents pay exorbitant monthly fees and are told that the children will stay in professional academies where they will be fed properly and taken to school.

However, most of these places are houses with poor living conditions. Even more concerning, are some of the teenagers’ accounts of their sexual abuse at the hands of these coaches.

On Thursday night’s raid, 40 teenagers were found in an overcrowded church building. The youngest was 10.

The Minister of Social Development, Suzan Shabangu, was also part of the raid.

Cele said he was aware that one of the abused children allegedly committed suicide and that this the matter would be investigated further.