For many young people from the Global South football labour migration to Europe fuels hopes of social mobility. However, the long-term value of an international career is uncertain. Despite the success of a few migrant role models, professional careers in Europe often go along with a number of social and economic challenges for migrants that hinder sufficient preparations for post-career life courses. In this article, we focus on retiring male West African footballers in Scandinavia and their challenges to transform accumulated physical capital into other forms of social, economic and cultural capital, such as financial resources, social relations, educational assets, language skills and rights in form of long-term residence permits or citizenship in Europe. By foregrounding the temporal and spatial dimensions of the accumulation and transformation of capital, we depict the relational character of its various forms (social, cultural and economic capital) and their changing value in the different localities of players’ origins and destinations and at different points in time. Hereby, we show how processes of capital transformation are ambivalent experiences which, nevertheless, point to problematic structures in the global football business that disadvantage migrant players and their attempts to reproduce social mobility after career ending.

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European Journal for Sport and Society
Department of History

Ungruhe, C, & Agergaard, S. (2020). Migrant athletes and the transformation of physical capital. Spatial and temporal dynamics in West African footballers’ approaches to post-careers. European Journal for Sport and Society. doi:10.1080/16138171.2020.1863706