'Go Outside': The History, Economics and Geography of Ghanaian Football Labour Migration

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By the beginning of the new millennium, Ghana had become one of the primaryexporters of football labour from the African continent. This article examines the history,geography and economic dimensions of this migratory trend. It reveals that themovement of Ghanaian footballers into the international football market was slow indeveloping. This was largely because of two factors. Firstly, during the colonial period,British football clubs, unlike those in some other countries with a significant imperialpresence in Africa, were much too insular to envision Britain’s African territories as asource of playing talent despite the existence there of strong football cultures. Secondly,when Ghana acquired its independence, the first head of state, Kwame Nkrumah, investedheavily in the promotion of the game at both domestic and international level.This ensured that sound infrastructures were put in place for football development,thereby convincing players of the game’s future in the country. However, during thelast decade of the twentieth century and the first of the twenty-first century Ghanaianfootball migrants have increasingly populated leagues in Europe and elsewhere. Theprofile and proficiency of a number of ‘path-breaking’ players who joined Europeanclubs in the 1980s were important in initiating this development but Ghana’s successin world youth competitions was key. The continued decline of the local Ghanaiangame during the 1990s and early 2000s, the development of a whole host of football‘academies’ in the same period and the successes of Ghanaian football migrants suchas Abedi Pele, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien have also fed into Ghana’s status as amajor football labour exporter, not least because they have helped to create an almostall-pervasive aspiration amongst young talented players to ply their trade beyond thecountry’s borders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-41
JournalAfrican Historical Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2010


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