African football migration

Aspirations, experiences and trajectories

By Paul Darby, James Esson and Christian Ungruhe

African football migration
Hardcover +
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526120267
  • Publish Date: Jan 2022
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now

    Paperback +
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526171993
  • Publish Date: Jul 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now

    eBook -
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526120298
  • Publish Date: Jan 2022
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Buy Now

    Book Information


    The global success of football icons like Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah has fuelled the migratory projects of countless young men across the African continent who dream of following - literally and figuratively - in their footsteps. Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic research, African football migration captures and chronicles the aspirations, experiences and trajectories of those pursuing this highly prized form of transnational migration. In doing so, the book uncovers and traces the myriad actors, networks and institutions that affect the ability of young people across the continent to realise social mobility through football's global production network.

    The book sheds critical light on the barriers to social mobility erected by neoliberal capitalism, and how these are negotiated by aspiring African footballers. 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. While a select few reach the elite levels of the game and build a successful career overseas, the book vividly illustrates how for the vast majority, 'trying their luck' through football results in 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 retirement from careers as players.

    African football migration offers essential coverage of why and how African youth and young men have become actors in the global football industry, revealing the complex implications of transnational mobility, both imagined and enacted.


    Shortlisted for the British Society of Sports History's Lord Aberdare Literary Prize 2023
    Honourable Mention - North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Outstanding Book Award 2023

    'This discussion of a key element of the global labour market in contemporary sport manages to both straddle complex disciplinary boundaries - sociology, geography, and anthropology - to present a well historicised, sharply insightful analysis of football migration, mainly from West Africa, in the last two decades.' - Judges statement

    'Well-researched and meticulously written [...] Provides some much-needed oxygen to the study of African migration.'
    Jesper Bjarnesen, International Migration Review


    1 Theorising African football migration
    2 The history, geography and regulation of African football migration
    3 'Producing' African labour for the global football industry
    4 Speculation in and through football migration
    5 'Becoming a somebody' through football
    6 Luck, sackings and involuntary immobility in football
    7 Navigating liminality in foreign football industries
    8 Hope and precarity in transnational football careers
    9 Post-playing-career transitions and struggles



    Paul Darby is a Reader in the Sociology of Sport at Ulster University

    James Esson is a Reader in Human Geography at Loughborough University

    Christian Ungruhe is a Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at Erasmus University Rotterdam

    To purchase as an ebook, please visit your preferred ebook supplier

    Amazon Waterstones Blackwells Bookshop Kobo

    Newsletter Sign Up

    Manchester University Press

    Your cart is empty.

    Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

    (Based on standard shipping costs)

    Final cost calculated on checkout
    Promotional codes can be added on Checkout

    Sign up for our newsletter