This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands
Earlier this year, 25-year-old Bernio Jordan Enzo Verhagen made a surprising move for a Dutch amateur football player. He hopped on a plane to play for a club called FC Dinamo-Auto in Transnistria, a Moldovan breakaway state that declared its independence in 1990.
FC Dinamo-Auto is basically an amateur club, without its own stadium. Verhagen stayed with them for only a short time and never made his debut in the first 11. He soon returned to the Netherlands, where I caught up with him on my Dutch podcast to ask him about his time in Transnistria. After the podcast episode was released, I received a few concerned messages from listeners warning me that Verhagen was involved in credit card fraud.
When I asked him about the allegations, he said they were “just haters” and asked me to give him their names. I didn't, but something didn't feel right. I decided to keep an eye on his career which, to my surprise, took him to South Africa, Chile and Denmark by the end of the year.
When I saw on Twitter that Cape Town City FC had announced Verhagen as one of their new players, I was surprised. Verhagen hadn’t played a single game in Transnistria, and Cape Town City FC is a legit club in South Africa. But things got even weirder when Verhagen left Cape Town City after only one month, again without playing a single game, only to pop up again at Audax Italiano, a club in Chile's Premier League. A few months later, Verhagen was gone – after playing zero games.
The next time I heard about him was on the 5th of November. Danish Viborg FF, a first division club that won the Danish cup in 2000, posted a statement on their website saying they had signed Verhagen. He got jersey number 28.
Right before Viborg FF officially introduced him as one of its players, Verhagen was interviewed by Chilean paper La Tercera, via Skype. Verhagen said he had left Chile with his Chilean girlfriend, Nayaret Muci, who was also on the call to help translate.
According to La Tercera, right before the interview, Muci had posted a few stories on her Instagram account accusing Verhagen of holding her captive in Denmark, of beating her and spitting on her. Muci brought the subject up before being asked by the reporter, saying that it was hard "to live with a person who doesn't let you out of the hotel", but that everything was "fine" now. Later in the interview, Verhagen said he left Audax Italiano because his fellow players were racist and called him an "ape" and "slave". He wouldn't say which agent brought him to the team.
It’s a deeply strange and concerning interview that raises more questions than it answers. Who currently represents Verhagen? Why does he keep leaving teams and getting signed across the world if he’s not playing? Shouldn’t the Danish police check in on his girlfriend? I reached out to him again and asked him about his agent on WhatsApp. “I’d like you to stop bothering me,” he replied.
When contacted, the Dutch national soccer federation (KNVB) said Verhagen was a youth player at Willem II, a first-division Dutch club, for one year in 2009. Since then, he had been registered at three other Dutch amateur clubs. Even though KNVB is supposed to know when a Dutch player is transferred to an international club for the first time, there’s no record of him ever going abroad.
According to the most recent KNVB-records, Verhagen was registered at the Dutch club Den Dungen until this year. I called their scout Marcel van Krieken, who said Verhagen played about four games and “didn’t really stand out”. He also noted he was very pleasant to be around, but he didn’t understand why professional clubs kept signing him.
FC Dinamo-Auto in Transnistria didn't respond when contacted, but the message proudly announcing Verhagen as a team player on their website has since been deleted.
Cape Town City FC's spokesperson Julian Bailey said Verhagen came to them “through an agent who has a strong link with the club”, but told me he didn’t know the agent’s name. He said that before Verhagen arrived, they saw a video of him playing. “The head of the club liked what he saw, so we offered him a contract.” But when Verhagen got to Cape Town City FC, he wasn’t in shape and had to train by himself. “We didn’t get a chance to see if he’d get to the level we had seen in the video,” said the club. “But his attitude was great."
According to Cape Town City FC, Verhagen soon left because he wanted to return to Europe. But next he went to Audax Italiano in Chile. Lorenzo Antillo, the head of Audax, dodged questions, saying: “I’d rather not discuss this topic. I have got involved in something I didn’t ask for."
Meanwhile in Denmark, a few remarkable stories start popping up. Football news site Bold spoke to Verhagen, who told them he had been on trial at the clubs Næstved and Randers in the past. Bold fact-checked his statements with both clubs and they claimed they had no idea who Verhagen was. It also turned out that Verhagen was training by himself in Denmark, just like in Cape Town.
Next, Danish newspaper Politiken revealed that Verhagen had previously pretended to be an FC Kopenhagen player in Denmark, supposedly in order to seduce a woman before stealing money and jewellery. In response to the revelation, Viborg FF released a lengthy statement, claiming they believed they had signed Verhagen via Stellar Group, a huge agency representing big names like Gareth Bale.
In reality, the club hired him based on fraudulent emails, documents and phone calls from one or multiple people pretending to work for Stellar Group. One of club's directors said he communicated almost daily with a man claiming to be Stellar Group CEO Mo Sinoush. They planned to eventually sell Verhagen to a Chinese club that had expressed interest. Of course, the letters sent from the Chinese club also turned out to be completely fake.
It was only when Verhagen arrived at Viborg FF that they realised they had been scammed. On closer inspection, the emails from Stellar Group came from an account ending in ".co" instead of ".co.uk". Viborg FF is currently collaborating with the real Stellar Group to hand the case over to the Danish police.
On the 26th of November, Viborg FF announced it had terminated his contract. One day later, Verhagen was arrested in Denmark on suspicion of assaulting and robbing multiple people, including Nayaret Muci, and was charged with fraud on December 3rd. It seems the unlikely success story of a player who never spent a minute on the field has come to an end.