Navigating liminality in foreign football industries
in African football migration
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This chapter draws attention to the diverse pathways and players’ experiences as they negotiate initial transnational moves to Europe and South-East Asia. It also examines the implications that the pathways and experiences have for a player’s career trajectory. Whether following conventional pathways or less formalised routes, the ability to navigate an uncertain and unpredictable industry is shown to be a key asset for African players. The chapter also illustrates how power imbalances in the social infrastructure of football’s global production network often leaves players in a marginalised position. Many experience fraud or are left with few opportunities to achieve their aspiration to make it in professional football and ‘become a somebody’. This is a harsh reality of labouring in a highly competitive, speculative and commercialised industry. It also reflects the tension between the interests of powerful actors and those of the player. This tension is visible in both Europe and South-East Asia. In this way, players moving to these destinations share similar experiences of a challenging liminality. The chapter argues, however, that continuing to speculate on their physical capital and talent in this initial stage of a potential professional career abroad should not be seen as an act of naivety or despair. Instead, the belief in one’s abilities and a strategic pursuit of the futures they envisage is indicative of considerable resilience.

African football migration

Aspirations, experiences and trajectories


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