‘Becoming a somebody’ through football
in African football migration
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This chapter examines the rationale behind African youth entering into and transitioning between a series of nodes in the local football industry that they hope will lead to transnational football migration. It reveals how youth in contemporary Africa increasingly perceive and justify their entry into the local game as part of their biographical planning in an era of neoliberal governance. The chapter also introduces a range of interpretations and representations of football that shape this project of individual and social becoming, teasing out the ‘migration drivers’ that influence young people’s decision to embark on a career in football. More specifically, youth are argued to see football migration as a vehicle for social mobility, an alternative pathway to attain a sense of respectable adulthood and fulfil intergenerational obligations to family, alongside wider social expectations around migration in West African contexts. Significantly, the chapter illustrates that although operating within neoliberal contexts that encourage individuation, the migratory drivers informing aspirations to ‘become a somebody’ through football are part of a more collective endeavour. These drivers and attendant aspirations are constitutive of a ‘social negotiation of hope’.

African football migration

Aspirations, experiences and trajectories


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