The Pursuit Of European Dreams By Amateur African Players

By February 26, 2022 No Comments

The dream of every young sportsman or woman is to ply their trade outside the shores of their home countries with obvious reasons such as the lack of structure and appreciation for their craft. 

The signing of African players by professional football clubs in Europe dates as far back as the colonial era. Colonisation gifted the football clubs of those countries with a staunch presence in Africa and they became the main beneficiaries of African migrant talent. 

Countries like France, whose domestic leagues and international teams are built on black talents, drew from the fact that they had a stronghold in French-speaking African countries. Even after the collapse of colonial rule in Africa, it did not restrict this process and by the mid 1970s, there was already a steady migration of football talent to France and Belgium. African players began crossing European borders in even greater numbers in the 1980s. 

This trend escalated significantly in the 1990s and after a decade, there were about 350 players from Africa playing in either the first or second division clubs in Europe.

The early 1960s saw some European colonial powers benefiting greatly from football talent from their African colonies. Colonial history has continued to be influential in the direction and pattern of transfer flows between African and European football, with France, Belgium, Portugal, and England ranking among the primary destinations of African migrant footballers. A better explanation of football transfers between European clubs and Africa also considers other factors such as the political economy of world football.

The growing status and popularity of African national teams in the international arena since the mid-1980s has been one of the most significant factors in the rapid flow of Africans to the European scene. This has brought about  an increased presence and improved results for African sides at the World Cup, not excluding solid and excellent performances by African teams at the world Under-20 and Under-17 youth championships. 

These performances have often showcased the potential of emerging African talent to European clubs and helped accelerate the “demand” for African players in Europe.

The specific conditions that are called  the “supply” side of migration are deeply rooted in the fragile and unstable political and economic strength of African football. 

Largely supported by the revenue generated by the UEFA Champions League and the sale of media rights, clubs in Europe’s top-level leagues, especially in England, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France always offer the type of salaries that simply do not exist elsewhere in the football world. This explains the attraction of European football.

Although in North Africa, particularly Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, there is a level of professionalism that can encourage players to remain at home in the early stage of their careers. Clubs such as Al Alhy of Egypt and Esperance of Tunisia have slowly developed and gained professional foundations while others have relied on investment from the private and corporate sectors that has allowed them to hold on to their most talented players. 

Despite this levels of professionalism in North Africa, clubs are still not able to compete with European teams. 

All these highlight the correct choice that young African footballers with aspirations to make a career from the game are always confronted with. The little infrastructure, professionalism, and meagre salary discourage them to remain in their home nations.

It has become clear that it is difficult to be critical of Africa’s most talented players for choosing where the best destinations are for seeking to achieve their ambitions.

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