African football migration

Aspirations, experiences and trajectories

Africans have long graced football fields around the world. The success of icons such as Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah has fuelled the migratory projects of countless male youth across the African continent who dream of following in their footsteps. Using over a decade of ethnographic research, African Football Migration captures the historical, geographical and regulatory features of this migratory process. The book uncovers and traces the myriad actors, networks and institutions that impact the ability of children and youth across the continent to realise social mobility through football’s global production network. This sheds critical light on how young people are trying to negotiate contemporary barriers to social becoming erected by neoliberal capitalism. It also generates original interdisciplinary perspectives on the complex interplay between structural forces and human agency as young players navigate an industry rife with commercial speculation. A select few are fortunate enough to reach the elite levels of the game and build a successful career overseas. Significantly, the book vividly illustrates how for the vast majority, the outcome of ‘trying their luck’ through football is involuntary immobility in post-colonial Africa. These findings are complemented by rare empirical insights from transnational African migrants at the margins of the global football industry and those navigating precarious post-playing-career lives. In unpacking these issues, African Football Migration offers fresh perspectives on the transnational strategies deployed by youth and young men striving to improve their life chances, and the role that mobility – imagined and enacted – plays in these struggles.

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