This qualitative research draws on data from semi-structured, in-depth interviews to examine the friendships of 12 adolescent (14- and 15-year-old) boys within a professional football club Academy: a setting marked by competition for places. Findings highlight how boys fail to develop ‘deep’ friendships with other boys inside the club; their peer-relationships, even when described as ‘friendships’, are devoid of trust and emotional intimacy. Instead, ‘being mates’ is experienced within parameters of instrumentalism and individualism leading to superficial and inauthentic friendships. There is some indication that boys developed closer friendships with boys outside of the Academy, suggesting that competition is implicated negatively in friendship-building and hinders the capabilities of these boys to develop close friendships with teammates. Concluding this paper, we acknowledge limitations of our data, discuss implications and challenges for football academies, and highlight directions for future research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science