June 2021

Last modified: 29.04.2020

New Book

[Le Football des immigrés France-Algérie] Le Football des immigrés: Fr

ance-Algérie, l'Histoire en partage
Edited by Stanislas Frenkiel

Prefaced by french historian Paul Dietschy and postfaced by former player Ali Fergani, it reveals a little-known aspect of Algerian immigration to France. From the 1930s to the present day, from Ali Benouna to Zinédine Zidane, it highlights three generations of professional footballers and recounts the contrasting destinies of more than 500 players







The 66th CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report studies the changes occurred during the past five years in ten of the principal women’s leagues worldwide from the aspect of the players’ age, the percentage of expatriate footballers, as well as that of full international players. It notably shows the growing influence of the major European men’s clubs in the sphere of women’s football.

The fresh capital invested has notably stimulated the international mobility of women footballers. In the ten leagues studied, the percentage of expatriates has increased from 21.6% in 2017 to a record 33.0% in 2021. The increasing dominance of the traditionally men’s clubs in women’s football is clearly visible when looking at teams with the greatest number of full internationals. In the first 15 places are 14 teams whose male counterparts play in the five major European leagues.

The development of women’s football in Europe has encouraged more and more players from the best women’s football nation, the United States, to emigrate. In June 2021, with 87 citizens abroad in the championships studied, the United States were by far the most represented expatriate origin, ahead of Sweden (39 players) and Canada (37 players).



The International Sociology of Sport Association has announced that the ISSA 2021 World Congress for the Sociology of Sport is going ahead! The congress will be a virtual conference hosted by Universidad Andres Bello, in Chile in conjunction with collaboration from ALESDE, CLASCO, and RESDEP. The keynote lecture will be from Pablo Alabarces, Universidad de Buenos Aires. The conference will be held 15 -19 November 2021. The congress with offer dramatically lower registration fees and provide an important opportunity for a global community of scholars in the sociology of sport to come together and share their research. More details on the abstract registration system will be posted on the conference website in the coming weeks.

This is an excellent opportunity to showcase the research undertaken by members of the network across both of our subgroups (sport in migration and sport as migration). We would encourage members to consider proposing a panel(s) and ideally we would like to see a panel linked to the themes of both groups. Details on proposing a panel/session will be available from the conference website and we would be happy to facilitate a call for abstracts to network members via our listserve. If you are interested in organising a session, please contact Paul Darby (p.darby@ulster.ac.uk).


Online Media

The popular online media platform “The Conversation”, specialized in publishing reports based on academic research, has recently published a series of articles on the histories and social issues of sports in Africa.

The contributions stem from the recently published book “Sports in Africa, Past and Present” (Ohio University Press), edited by Todd Cleveland, Tarminder Kaur and Spomi-network member Gerard Akindes, that has been shortlisted for the North American Society for Sport History Book Prize for the best sports history anthology published in 2020.

The chapters provide an array of sporting windows through which to view and understand key developments in Africans’ experiences with leisure and professional sporting activities.

The topic  of migration in the series is covered by Spomi-members Christian Ungruhe and Sine Agergaard who deal with the issue of structural inequalities and post-playing career precarities faced by professional African footballers in Europe.


Online Phd defense

Member of our PHD study group, Sepandarmaz Mashreghi, is about to defend her PhD. The thesis revolves around exploring the experiences of sport and physical activity of a group of young Afghan asylum seekers.

The seminar leader will be Dr. Nicola de Martini Ugolotti

The seminar takes place on Friday September 3rd at 13:00-15.00

Please find the zoom link here.



Meet Carmen Rial

        [Rial] My interest in sport and migration dates back to the 1990s, when Brazil became the world's largest exporter of male football players. This migratory flow was part of a more general flow of migrations, but these sporting flows differed from the more general Brazilian migrant flows. While the United States was the destination for most emigrants, for footballers it was Latin America and Portugal. Would these differences be evident more generally? That's when I decided to carry out a multi-sited ethnographic research that took me around the world, making contact with more than 100 footballers (men and women).


[Spomi] As an anthropologist, Carmen Rial considers Brazilian footballers from an array of perspectives: as transmigrants, existing in a complex nexus of racial categories, and even in terms of how religion, impacts migration and Brazilian football.  Her research has noted that existing categories can mislead.


[Rial] I examine the limitations of immigrant, emigrant, and expatriate as categories for explaining temporary labor flows, such as in my case, footballers who transit between countries and work institutions (their clubs). These athletes are not perceived and do not perceive themselves as immigrants/emigrants and maintain relationships in their countries of origin that place them closer to what has been defined as transmigrants, a more fluid category.


[Spomi] Some of Carmen Rial’s most interesting work is concerned with race and Brazilian footballers:


Rial “When they circulate abroad, a conjunction of Brazilianness (and at times South Americanity) and “Black race” is triggered. Their racial characterization abroad often does not correspond to what it was before their migration. This racial construction present in the labor circulation of football players in the countries of destination gets expressed in two contradictory ways. On one hand as racism (as seen in fans throwing bananas on the field, making monkey-like howls and gestures), and on the other hand as an attribution of physical superiority and innate capacities for sport superior to that of whites. Fassin’s (2011) three-person approach theory has been important for thinking about the ways in which this racialization is expressed. The first facet identifies racial qualifications made by a racist spectators; the second is a recognition of oneself as racialized (by the athlete); and third, a racial interaction that gives “public life” to the racialization (by spectators in stadiums and, mainly viewers in the mediascape). As I observed in my fieldwork, the racialized image of Brazilian footballers contains opposite facets. There is an aura that places them in a superior position in the ethnically defined market - as I depicted with the term Kaká Noir. But in contrast they bear a projected stigma of an intellectual inferiority that characterizes them as childish and their sport practice as a rebellion against European tactics.


   Spomi: As an anthropologist, Carmen Rial has some tried and true interests to the intersection of religion and football. Her approach, however, reveals some cutting-edge differences related to sports migration. 


Rial: “Football and religion clearly have a close relationship and it would not be an exaggeration to say that contemporary football is often the scene of the most watched religious propaganda in the world. However, we must be careful not to reduce one thing to another. The questions I tried to answer were: Why are religious practices so common in football? Why are they so important to football players? Why do most of them choose neo-Pentecostal churches?


My initial answer to the first question came from a practical point of view as it had for Gmelch (1978), who used Malinowski's analysis of magic in Trobriand Islands to show that baseball players use magic to control anxiety generated by unpredictable events. Brazilian footballers I studied tended to have an even more accentuated religiosity because migration abroad is a factor that increases uncertainty.


Football offers religion nothing less than the biggest and most important stage for its preaching, given that it reaches billions of homes on the planet. It allows missionaries to demonstrate their faith globally - through body marks, gestures, and words - thus spreading banal religiosity through the media and increasing the contingent of believers as global pastors.


The impact of religion goes beyond the professional realm, it has a much broader effect by transforming and building subjectivities (Rial 2017). Adhering to religion (Brazilian footballers prefer to call it "faith") radically transforms their lives, opening them to new experiences. “Faith” for footballers means loyalty, submission, hope. It is a trust that divine providence can bring prosperity, an expectation of future blessings, as well as an explanation for past achievements. Faith reduces feelings of uncertainty and offers comfort in a professional career that involves constant competition and risk of physical injury. It also brings order to a radically altered life (Rial 2012). For these players, faith acts as a tool for managing fame and fortune. For clubs, it guarantees healthy bodies and healthy minds, a guarantee that footballers will survive in an environment that they find strange and at times hostile.


New members