Hervé Kouamouo is currently a PhD student in the Social Science team of the Research Center on Sport and Movement (University of Paris Ouest Nanterre). His thesis deals with the strategies of retraining African footballers living in France. How to negotiate the return to some form of subalternity after being Big Men?
“Re-inventing oneself to stay a Big Man” The strategies of reconversion of former African professional footballers in France
The globalization of the economy, the development of the media, new communication and transport technologies have transformed the world landscape and allowed the emergence of “global scenes”, transnational (Urry, 2005). In Africa, ever since countries became independent, sport is mainly state-controlled, and contributes in the nation’s construction of infrastructures during major events. However today it tends to emancipate itself from the state’s tutelage. Professional sportsmen can now practice their profession by migrating and the tv broadcast of foreign championships allows people to see them in the stadiums and supporters to identify them. This new situation allows them to integrate into their career a status, which corresponds to the rank of “Big Man” (Medard, 1992): those entrepreneurs whose political, economic and social resources are convertible into one to another. They measure their power to the number of “followers” identifying with them and expecting in return external signs of power. However, the logic of ostentatious redistribution induced by this status diverges from that of a career (Hughes, 1996) in professional sport.
Is it because of their social rise away from the state mechanisms of their country of origin, that they then find themselves regularly for football games in a non-institutional setting? Our work proposes to analyze the networks of African former professional players who have evolved in the French championship since 1990, and the mobilization of their resources to determine strategies in their life trajectory. Based on biographical and observation interviews, we will try to show that by transposing a practice from their country of origin; Self-managed football (Manirakiza, 2010). They retain a sociability that allows them to maneuver to remain “Big Men”. Because the social construct of the status of “diasporic hero” (Corcoran, 1998) no longer allow them transfers of wealth, we will study how they forge alliances, move away to continue to have an ostentatious capacity.