The Football Fraudster (2024) Documentary Review – A rather limited look at the life and crimes of Medi Abalimba

A rather limited look at the life and crimes of Medi Abalimba

Here’s another true crime documentary but unlike most of the other docs that have flooded our TV channels and streaming services in recent months, this one doesn’t feature a gruesome murder with re-enacted scenes that will put you off your dinner.

This doc, which is currently airing on ITV (and available on ITVX) has more in common with Confessions of a Teenage Fraudster, telling as it does the story of a man who turned to a life of crime and deception to fund a glamorous lifestyle.

The Football Fraudster tells the story of former footballer Medi Abalimba whose dreams of a football career were shattered when he was let go by Derby County after he slipped down the leagues.

Instead of submitting himself to a ‘normal’ life after his departure from the sports field, he decided to continue with the expensive lifestyle he had been used to by stealing the credit card details of his victims to pay for the luxuries he wanted. He did this by transforming himself into a range of different identities, including Chelsea football player Gael Kakuta, whose name he used to get dates with beautiful women and to trick men into chauffering him around.

Of the women he dated, two of them are interviewed in the documentary. One of these is Georgia Steele, who will be familiar to anybody who has ever seen Love Island. She didn’t find out Medi’s true identity until her manager called and told her who he was after seeing his face in the newspaper. Following this discovery, she checked her bank account and noticed that Medi had taken £32,000 of her money!

One person we don’t hear from is Claire Merry, the ex-wife of Thierry Henry, who like Georgia and Medi’s other victims, also discovered the fraudster had taken money from her bank account to pay for his champagne lifestyle. She, like many others, was taken in by his charm and seemingly kind-hearted nature. This came at a cost, both financially and emotionally. 

Frustratingly, we don’t hear a lot from Medi himself. There is a recorded message of him speaking to the documentary’s producers, but it’s very brief, offering no insight into what made him commit his crimes. An actual interview with him would have been helpful but as was in prison at the time this documentary was made, I guess this may have been logistically impossible. 

With regards to his motives, we do hear a lot from Dr Donna Young, a forensics psychologist who tries to offer an explanation for Medi’s twisted lifestyle. However, she isn’t able to offer a lot of real insight, as she can only speculate on what might be going on in his head from video footage that she has access to. As far as we know, she didn’t know Medi personally, so her revelations about the football fraudster shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth.

The documentary overall is rather limited. There’s little mention of Medi’s background, his childhood, or his life before he became a professional footballer. As this information may have been unavailable to the producers, it’s understandable that details of Medi’s past are missing. But I wish they had been able to delve more into his upbringing to shed more light on how he came to be the person who duped so many. 

Some insight is given by one football player who knew (and was defrauded) by Medi, but it’s mostly surface-level stuff, on how he thought Medi was a nice guy until he discovered money had been stolen from him. His story is very similar to those told by other victims interviewed, including one man who tells us his wife, who is supposed to be a “good judge of character, ” approved of Medi. We’re guessing she can’t be that good of a judge unless Medi hypnotised her with his charms. 

The Football Fraudster plays out like most other documentaries, with talking head interviews, archival video footage, and dramatic re-enactments of key events in the story being told. There are also a lot of unnecessary scenes of the interviewees walking across fields, driving around London, and gazing off wistfully into the distance. These are distracting and overplayed but we suppose the filmmakers were trying to pad out the running time to make up for a lack of decent information about Medi’s life. 

Ultimately, this is another tale of the lengths somebody will go to to escape a life of mundanity. I don’t think it’s a particularly good documentary due to the fact it never manages to get under Medi’s skin. But despite its faults, it still acts as a sobering reminder that we should never take for granted what strangers in our life tell us – especially if they try and wine and dine us with claims of being somebody rich and famous!


Read More: Where is Medi Abalimba now?

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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