"They eat football, they sleep football, they do everything football": Intra-family negotiations and recruitment into football academies in Ghana

Nienke Van der Meij, Paul Darby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In previous studies on African football migration, academies’ search for talent has been understood in its macro-structural context in which uneven power relations between the global North and South shape the production and trade in African players. By focusing on macro-structural determinants of migration, this scholarship has neglected to examine how players and their families actively engage with the processes that lead to them being recruited by academies. As such, it tends to conceal the agency of various actors in the migration process, particularly the ways in which both players and their families navigate the decision-making process on internal migration to a football academy. This article explores whether moving to an academy is understood within the family context as a precursor to international migration and as such, might feature as part of a broader household livelihood strategy. Drawing on empirical data collected during nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in Ghana, the article sheds light on the experiences of young players who encounter the recruitment processes employed by academies and how these are shaped and informed by Ghanaian family arrangements and in particular the social norm of intergenerational reciprocity. It uncovers what are often conflicting perspectives of football and football academies within families and analyses how this impacts on internal football migration. In doing so, this study contributes significantly to our understanding of the processes associated with football labour migration in Ghana, and elsewhere on the continent, not least because it challenges the assumption that young players and their family members unambiguously view academies as vehicles for international migration and a chance to secure future prosperity, and that they uncritically take up any opportunity that comes their way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-474
JournalStudi Emigrazione
Issue number203
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Aug 2016



  • Migration
  • Ghana
  • African football
  • Football academies

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