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Open Access “Natural Born Sportsmen”. Processes of Othering and Self-Charismatization of African Professional Footballers in Germany

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“Natural Born Sportsmen”. Processes of Othering and Self-Charismatization of African Professional Footballers in Germany

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At first sight, the perception of African footballers in Germany seems to be two-fold. Whereas amateur players may face racist assaults during matches time and again, open racism in professional German football has declined. Indeed, African players in the Bundesliga are frequently celebrated by fans and are icons of their clubs. However, this paper argues that the cheering of star players and forms of open racism during amateur matches are often only two extremes of a continuum since professional African footballers continue to be socially constructed as being different. Ascriptions of playing styles as elegant, powerful, and playful reflect alleged natural differences and manifest the otherness of African players. The article analyzes the historical construction of this manifestation and also discusses to what extent ascribed otherness is adopted by African footballers as a kind of “self-charismatization.”

Affiliations: 1: University of BayreuthUniversitätsstraße 30, 95440 BayreuthGermanychristian.ungruhe@gmx.net

At first sight, the perception of African footballers in Germany seems to be two-fold. Whereas amateur players may face racist assaults during matches time and again, open racism in professional German football has declined. Indeed, African players in the Bundesliga are frequently celebrated by fans and are icons of their clubs. However, this paper argues that the cheering of star players and forms of open racism during amateur matches are often only two extremes of a continuum since professional African footballers continue to be socially constructed as being different. Ascriptions of playing styles as elegant, powerful, and playful reflect alleged natural differences and manifest the otherness of African players. The article analyzes the historical construction of this manifestation and also discusses to what extent ascribed otherness is adopted by African footballers as a kind of “self-charismatization.”

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/content/journals/10.1163/18725457-12341247
2014-06-04
2018-10-16

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