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Paul Darby, James Esson, and Christian Ungruhe

This chapter explores how African migrant players plan for, manage and negotiate the conclusion of their football career. It shows how a neglect of formal education and the absence of other dual career possibilities frequently limits alternative occupational opportunities for migrant players, resulting in precarious livelihoods characterised by financial difficulties and a declining social status. These can generate significant and (often interconnected) obstacles for players’ post-playing-career trajectories, not least by creating a discrepancy between their social status abroad and at ‘home’. However, in keeping with the rest of the book, this chapter illustrates the resourcefulness of African football players as they seek out other ways of reproducing their social mobility and status when their professional playing career concludes, not least by investing in businesses and housing at home and making strategic decisions around remaining abroad or returning to Africa. This enables a conceptualisation of African migrant footballers’ quest for social mobility as an ongoing process that occurs throughout their life course, from the forming of their migratory aspiration to their transnational careers and finally into their post-playing-career lives.

in African football migration
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Paul Darby, James Esson, and Christian Ungruhe

The concluding chapter opens with a concise summary of our key findings before setting out how the book extends knowledge and understanding of African football migration. We point to five key contributions and advancements. Firstly, our findings set out a comprehensive picture that incorporates the intersecting macro-, meso- and micro-level currents that contour and influence the migratory imaginaries and projects of African football players. Secondly, and informed by our long-term, ongoing relationships and engagement with African players and other actors, we have situated their perspectives, subjectivities and experiences at the centre of our analysis. Thirdly, the long-term, temporal perspective we offer through this book exposes the whole career course of African players from their initial engagement with football, through to their transnational careers and post-playing career lives. Fourthly, by showing ethnographically how the historical, political, economic and social dynamics of African contexts connect with and shape the experiences of players in destination settings, we uncover the multiple transnational dimensions in players’ imaginaries and professional and personal life courses. Finally, this book highlights the intellectual benefits of examining African football migration, and sport migration more generally, in an interdisciplinary manner. We finish this concluding chapter by pointing to new empirical, conceptual and methodological directions for research on African football migration.

in African football migration