Gerard Akindes is currently working for the Josoor Institute in Doha, Qatar. His roles with the Josoor Institute consist in organizing training and coordinate research projects in sports and events sports management. His research interests include sports broadcasting, elites athletes migration, sports development and sports for development.
The migration of young African athletes: a persisting delocalized dream for a professional career
The migration of African athletic talent has persevered through the series of political transformations in Africa, from colonization through independence and political democratization. African athletes’ mobility has diversified from simply Africa-to-Europe routes to destinations such as the oil and gas rich Arabic Gulf countries. Although dominated by football (soccer) players, the transnational mobility of African athletes includes sports such as volleyball, basketball, handball, and track and field. The State of Qatar, in addition to hosting major sporting events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is now a destination for elite African sportspersons looking to develop a professional athletic career.
I had the opportunity to observe six junior teams of the Qatar volleyball league. African players were identifiable in each team playing that day. Two players whom I interviewed confirmed this observation. These two young athletes accepted to be interviewed about their trajectory from their home country, respectively Niger and Senegal, to Qatar. Their narratives of African volleyball players recruited to play in Qatar provides an opportunity to better apprehend the migration of non-football players and broaden the discussion of sports, migration, and society in contemporary Africa
The introduction of the paper presents examples of the State of Qatar’s emphasis on sports diplomacy, tracing its heavy investments that make it a major destination for international sporting events. The following section captures the key points of the trajectory of these young athletes’ journey from their respective home countries to Qatar. To conclude the paper, I discuss how structural factors horizontally move African athletes from often precarious socio-economic environments to new peripheral spaces in their host country.