Archive for the ‘Next step’ Category
Fake Euro 2012 goods thrive on Ukraine’s “7 Kilometre” black market.
The products Tayo Abraham sells today made the same voyage the Nigerian trader did five years ago. They came over the Black Sea.
Five years ago, Abraham, 28, left his wife back in Africa and headed to Europe, the distant land of promise. He ended up on its outer edge, here, in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa.
Abraham plies his trade in what must be Europe’s largest open-air market.
It stands on the outskirts of Odessa and is known as “7 Kilometre.” This labyrinth of shipping containers covers an area the size of 110 soccer fields, and it would be easy to get lost if the metal containers weren’t painted blue, green or orange to identify their sector.
Every day, this city of sheet steel attracts some 200,000 shoppers who buy €20 million ($25.8 million) worth of goods.
The market’s management says some 60,000 people work here and that the place gives the entire region an important economic boost.
But the container mall is also a hub for product pirates and smugglers.
It is regarded as the biggest black market on the European continent.
Traders sell fake Adidas shoes and €15 knock-offs of Louis Vuitton luxury handbags.
Tayo Abraham takes a pair of sneakers from one of his boxes. With their three stripes, they are the spitting image of Adidas brand shoes.
“In truth they come from China or Turkey,” says Abraham. A pair costs the equivalent of €12. He also sells shoes bearing the exclusive Lacoste crocodile for an affordable €15.
Demand is strong. Abraham rents two containers piled on top of each other. He has turned the lower one into an improvised shoe shop with shelves and a cracked mirror. The container above is filled with boxes of merchandise for wholesale customers who buy bulk and smuggle the goods westward into the rest of Europe.
The 2012 European soccer championship, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, is big business for the traders of “7 Kilometre.”
Abraham fishes a box of flip-flop sandals from his container. They are adorned with the brand name “UEFA Euro 2012” and the logo of the championship, a soccer ball framed by two flowers in the national colours of co-hosts Poland and Ukraine.
“I’m selling crateloads of them,” says Abraham.
He’s also making a pile in Euro 2012 felt hats and stuffed toy mascots of the tournament, Slavek and Slavko, the rights to which are owned by U.S. media giant Warner Bros.
The body that governs European soccer, UEFA, is losing merchandising revenue as a result. “We don’t know how much counterfeit stock is on the market,” says UEFA’s sales manager Thibaut Potdevin. “So it is hard for us to estimate the damage.”
There isn’t much that UEFA can do about it. Ukraine passed a law before the championship to protect UEFA’s trademark.
But black markets like that in Odessa have influential allies among the police and local authorities. Market director Anatoly Berladin used to be deputy head of the local militia force. Oleg Kolesnikov, one of the bazaar’s backers, is a member of Odessa city council. “So far, no one has managed to disrupt our business,” he says.
No one has made a serious effort to do so. It’s an open secret in Odessa that Ukrainian authorities are knowingly letting counterfeit merchandise from Turkey and China get through the customs controls.
Abraham said the wholesaler who supplies him bribes the port authority.
“It is clear that the customs authority is getting a share of the proceeds from the smuggling,” says an employee of Warner Bros. who did not want to be named.
When traders come to buy whole crates of trainers and Euro flip-flops, Abraham knows where they’re headed. The smugglers transport the goods to the breakaway territory of Transnistria some 80 kilometres away. The strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine isn’t internationally recognized and is regarded as a bastion of smugglers. From there, the counterfeit goods are taken to Moldova and then on to Romania — in the EU.
The market administration of “7 Kilometres” charges about $300 rent per container per month, and the lease on a store on the site costs about $1,000.
But it’s worth the money, even for small traders.
Abraham earns about $1,200 per month.
Market director Berladin denies there is any black market trading or product piracy. “Everything here is above board,” he insists.” But he adds that it’s impossible to check each one of the 14,000 traders.
While thousands of cars cram the giant parking area, a short distance away stands a branch of Epicenter, a chain of DIY stores that is sponsoring the tournament and is entitled to sell official fan merchandise.
There’s no shortage of parking spots there — the difference is they are all empty.
Ukraine wants to take next step against France.
Andriy Shevchenko cemented his status as a legend for Ukraine years ago, and the 35-year-old striker reached an even more elite status in the team’s Euro 2012 opener.
Shevchenko scored a pair of goals to lead Ukraine to a win over Sweden, taking his career scoring total to 48 goals in 109 international matches. Now, he can raise his status one more notch, if he takes his country to knockout play.
In its first-ever Euro finals, as a co-host, Ukraine surprised Group D when it defeated Sweden, 2-1. Shevchenko scored both goals to lead the comeback win.
Ukraine will try to ride the emotion of its huge victory, and its home crowd – “Thanks to all the supporters,” Shevchenko said – into its game against France at Donbass Arena on Friday, when a win would seal a quarterfinal berth.
“I have so many emotions right now,” Shevchenko said. “This is fantastic. It’s the European Championship, playing at home, the opening game, and we win 2-1.”
Shevchenko realized nothing has been accomplished yet, as France – which tied England 1-1 in its first match – will provide another challenge. As fast as it lifted the nation to beat Sweden, the excitement could weaken with a loss.
For Shevchenko, that makes the approach simple: Play each match like it is the last. For the veteran, that is almost true. He will retire after the event.
“Each game we approach like a final. (Monday) it was the opening game at home, we won and showed outstanding football qualities. We will be preparing for the next game the same way,” Shevchenko said.
Even with the attention on Shevchenko, it was a team performance that fueled a win over Sweden and coach Oleh Blokhin was aware there were “good moments and bad moments.” And all that matters now is France.
“We still have two games left; (Monday’s) result puts us in a good position,” Blokhin said.
France will enter its second game as the clear favorite, even with a nation in its opponents corner. The favorite to win the group and erase its poor outings in Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, the French still have something to prove.
Samir Nasri scored in Monday’s 1-1 draw with England, but coach Laurent Blanc admitted “we have mixed feelings.”
Blanc felt France could have won the game, but also admitted “the draw as fair for both teams.” He cannot approach the second match content with a draw, even though it would keep France in position to advance.
“I hope we’ll be ready from the first minute in the next game,” Blanc said.