Itamar Dubinsky is a PhD student at the Department of Politics and Government in Ben-Gurion University, Israel. He works as a project coordinator at the university’s Africa Centre, and as an adjunct lecturer at the Open University, teaching an undergraduate course on colonialism in Africa. Itamar’s main area of interest is sports and development in Africa. His dissertation focuses on local development among Ghanaian football academies. His latest article was published in Children’s Geographies, examining whether Western researchers in non-Western countries face special situations that require adopting a unique research methodology and ethics when conducting research with children. His forthcoming article will be published in The International Journal of the History of Sport, examining historical and contemporary intersections between Ghana, Lebanon, and the West, as reflected via a football academy which was established by a Lebanese-Ghanaian entrepreneur. Itamar’s areas of research span beyond sports, as he is also interested in online activities and uses of Eritrean refugees in Israel, a topic which he has written about in an edited book. Itamar holds a basketball coaching certificate from the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports. He is a longtime fan of Maccabi Tel-Aviv F.C and Liverpool F.C.
“We’ve put this town on the map”: Local Development among Football Academies in Ghana
Football academies in Africa, and in Ghana in particular, are often the subject of research that focuses on international relationship aspects, such as neocolonialism and migration (Bale 2004; Darby 2007; Poli 2006). As interesting and important as these studies are, I argue they provide a partial picture since local communities are hardly examined. In this paper, I will focus on the role football academies in Ghana play within the local communities, from the locals’ points of views. Recently this approach has received some scholarly attention (Darby 2012:271; Esson 2013), though not enough. I aim to presents a more diverse perspective that includes the views of owners, coaches, children, parents, teachers and other locals surrounding the academies, including sellers and fans, an input which is missing in the current literature. This paper will expand upon the paper I gave at the 2014 Sport in Africa conference with new insights and critical perspectives from my fieldwork in Ghana. By doing so, the paper will emphasize the importance of examining the experiences and perspectives of various non-hegemonic participants of sport.
Based on findings from my ongoing doctoral research, which takes place among several football academies in Ghana, I argue that academies can contribute to local development, in areas such as sports, education, health, economic growth, social inclusion and the advancement of girls in football. These contributions illustrate that football academies in Ghana can serve as engines of development (Levermore 2008). However, we should also take into consideration that academies can expose the ways in which discourses of development are leveraged for personal and institutional advantages. Football academies might indeed promote the use of corrupted practices or perpetuate local hierarchies or inequalities. These insights relate to several of the conference’s sub-themes, mainly on “Sports in Education Systems” and “(Un)Fairness and Social (In)Equalities”.