Sports and National Identity

The quality of the articles on race and identity at Minority Report is consistently very high, so I have added the site to my blogroll. David’s latest post is titled Overlapping Circles, and highlights the curious world of national sports. A country’s sporting heros are usually its most famous citizens, held aloft as model citizens who exemplify the national character. And yet in the sporting arena, nationality is a very transient quality indeed.

Sport takes nationality fairly loosely at the best of times. Or rather, in order to cast the net wide, rules are relaxed. At one time it seemed that to play for Ireland the requirement was only that one of your grandparents had sipped a pint of Guinness.

Another stark example of this is in the world of cricket, where many members of the English side have been of Southern African origin (with Kevin Pietersen the notable, recent example). A lament at the talent drain from the Zimbabwean national side forms the beginning of Let’s Talk Cricket from ZimPundit. White players are alienated, if not overtly excluded from the side, as their race becomes increasingly at odds with their nationality (as defined by their government). Those that remain, black and white, are abused and disrespected by the authorities:

… if you want an idea of how well a society is doing, take a look at their sports.

2 Replies to “Sports and National Identity”

  1. The concept of nationality is I think a very interesting one. In Germany it used to be that you could only be of German nationality if two generations of your parentage were German (if my memory serves me right). I believe that has changed now, post-war etc. By a similarly racist token, in Israel these days, I may be wrong, but it seems to be that you can only be Israelian if you are Jewish. Just thought I’d mention that coincidence. I’m not sure what the criteria are for being British.

  2. While I am here, and you have posted about sports, I would also like to make a small remark about football. We seem to have football teams based in and named after specific locations (Liverpool, ManU etc), but there doesn’t seem to be any requirement at all that the players from such teams originate or have any link to the place of the team, let alone the country. What is that about? If it’s not quite right that Zola Budd should have run for England, then is it really right that Theirry Henry should play for Arsenal? Am I missing something here?

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