Hope and precarity in transnational football careers
in African football migration
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This chapter focuses on the various challenges that African migrant players encounter and navigate as they seek to reproduce career mobility in Europe and South-East Asia. Some of these challenges contour the African migrant experience more generally, and include adjusting to a different climate, food, language and culture. Others, though, are found to be more specific to football and incorporate the particularities of the football environment, culture, expectations and playing styles of any given club or league. African players frequently lack resources and advantageous relations while competing with thousands of others for a very limited number of opportunities. This situation is compounded by racialisation and experiences of racism. They must also negotiate and meet multiple expectations from families, agents, clubs and coaches, as well as those that are self-imposed. Therefore, most African players’ careers are dominated by pressures and ongoing uncertainty that often leads to downward mobility in the industry. Yet is argued that players’ embodied belief in their abilities to succeed, and the need to make their migration project valuable for themselves, their family and wider community frequently mitigate the disillusionment and setbacks that they often face abroad. This is because staying in the game and keeping the hope of ‘making it’ alive gives meaning to the struggle, regardless of how precarious the present may be.

African football migration

Aspirations, experiences and trajectories

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