'The Downfall of a Man is Not the End of His Life': Navigating Involuntary Immobility in Ghanaian Football

Nienke Van der Meij, Paul Darby, Katie/K Liston

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The burgeoning number of football academies in Africa are widely understood by young aspiring players and their family members as a conduit for transnational migration and a professional career in the game. However, for the vast majority of academy recruits the stark reality is involuntary immobility. While there is a growing literature on African football migration, the experiences of young players from the continent who are unable to translate their academy training into a professional career overseas has been neglected. This article addresses this lacuna by focusing on how this process is experienced and navigated by a cohort of former Ghanaian academy players. These experiences are positioned within the context of the intergenerational contract, a pervasive social norm in West Africa that places considerable expectations on young adults to reciprocate materially to their household. The analyses here are based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Ghana totalling 12 months, conducted between January 2008 and July 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-194
Number of pages12
JournalSociology of Sport Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017



  • Ghana
  • football
  • social navigation
  • intergenerational contract
  • involuntary immobility

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