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Life for Many African Footballers Who Aspire to Successful Careers Overseas

Migration has long been an important livelihood strategy in many African countries. Migrating through football has more recently come to be viewed by increasing numbers of young people as a viable route to significantly improving their life chances. This trend is a consequence of multiple intersecting factors, ranging from economic precarity, a declining faith in education and a weak local football industry. The commercialisation of football economies in Europe and some Asian countries over the last 30 years has made them prized destinations for aspiring African migrant footballers. Thousands of African talents have tried to follow in the footsteps of iconic footballers such as Michael Essien, Samuel Eto’o, Mané and Mohamed Salah. However, for most the chance of succeeding is minimal. Ethnographic fieldwork in Africa, Europe and South-East Asia alongside numerous conversations with young footballers, parents, coaches, club owners and intermediaries reveal the precarious structures and career trajectories that characterise African football migration.