DIEGO COSTA: The art of war. Out July 30. Get ready to go to war. More here. http://t.co/tzuCBOgiPl pic.twitter.com/nwiTyLDKiY— BackPage Press (@BackPagePress) July 1, 2015
Vicente Del Bosque, manager of Spain on the Chelsea FC striker, Diego Costa:
"I'm not going to hide the fact that he is a special case. He has never played for us before, and he was born in Brazil." --- Source: Marca, 28 February 2014
Rowan was kind enough to provide a synopsis of his dissertation, "World in Motion: The Morality of Changing National Identity in International Sport". I am very pleased to have this important topic discussed in such detail. Please enjoy this excellent synopsis.
The paper adopted a case study approach to the analysis of the ideas surrounding
temporary identity in sport, with the focus on German National Football team and
Middle East Sport. Analysis of the research into global migration found that human
phenomena provide the greatest reason behind migration, for example social
problems, along with a global consumer culture investing in sport. This investment
has led to wealthy sectors of sport being able to offer athletes financial reward in
order for them to change citizenship and compete on an international platform.
The significance in these findings is they provide a possible vision into the future
of international sport being manipulated by wealthy nations. Teams may consist of
athletes from contrasting cultures and ethnicities competing under the same flag
as a consequence of their personal desire for monetary gain and the host country’s
wish for global recognition in sport.
The idea of nationality forms a platform for research into the growing trend of dual
nationality sportspeople and the morality of their decision to choose or defer one
nationality in favour of another. Schiller, Basch et al (1992) argued that immigration
has been replaced by transnationalism where people establish communities crossing
borders rather than direct movement to a particular place and adopting hybrid
cultures, creating the notion of temporary identity as they are connected between
two more countries and ultimately one will benefit over another. Four main areas
were identified as having influence this theory of identity:
1) Political Identity - Displacement and voluntary movement of people across
borders establishing ethnic communities in new countries.
2) Economic Impact - Sport is an economic vehicle which embroils society and
distorts sporting integrity with promises of personal material gain from wealthier
3) Social Change and Globalisation - To what extent does sport migration benefit the
new host country and society.
4) Talent Identification and Identity - Stereotypical assumptions on sporting talent
led to “wealthier” countries creating lucrative deals to entice athletes to defer their
Case Study 1: Modern German National Football
The growing status of a unified Germany in international football prompted the
research as the team contains numerous players who were not born in Germany,
creating an argument between the modern multicultural society and conservative
caution over migration (Kauff et al 2013). A practical example to justify the research
is of the national German team selection of players against France on February
6th, 2013 which contained six players out of the nineteen man squad who were
born outside of Germany or had at least one non-German parent (DFB 2013).
This example creates an interesting focus on international competition as the six players
in the squad could play for another country, meaning that German national football
may have benefited where another country has lost out on sporting talent.
|Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.|
Mesut Özil of Arsenal and the German national team.
Germany is not an isolated example in global football as an increasing number
of nations are starting to accommodate players of mixed parentage or differing
birth country, such as Switzerland. German citizenship reform in 2000 created new
guidelines which allows for naturalisation of people who have lived in Germany for
a period of time and the gaining of citizenship through birth for second generation
migrant families, alongside children having until their twenty third birthday to decide
on absolute citizenship, whether they want to become German or their paternal
country citizen (Winter & John 2010). The concept of “Jus Sanguinis” allows for the
acquisition of German citizenship if one parent is of German descent, irrespective of
birthplace (Brubaker 1992), which is the main point of controversy as footballers can
then decide on playing for the German national team or their birth country.
The paper has focussed on international sport as domestic competitions do not
raise the same questions surrounding nationalism as German football exemplifies
Dyreson’s (2003) theory of globalisation fuelling modern international sport as a
diversity of national interests. The footballers playing for Germany have decided
to compete for their adoptive country to increase their own chances of success
rather than in exchange for material goods. Yet even though they are not receiving
immediate wealth the athletes have a greater opportunity to earn success leading to
a long term personal gain through winning competitions, resulting in being involved
with top domestic teams.
Case Study 2: Middle East Sport -A Transferable Case Study
|Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.|
A contemporary issue surrounding nationalism is the issues concerning Middle
Eastern countries offering money to young, talented athletes, predominantly from
East Africa to compete internationally. Economic strength in the Gulf states has
created opportunities for sport to develop as a powerful tool for both governments
and private investors, affecting domestic and international teams, yet due to a lack
of previous sport facilities and structure, the modern investment is used to buy
foreign athletes rather than develop home grown sportspeople.
This issue is problematic as developing countries are investing in sport but wealthier
neighbour countries harvest the sports talent, for example Kenyan athlete’s being
lured to compete for a nearby Arab country as they are promised economic benefits
(Thibault 2009), causing a cycle of migration which deskills the nation’s sports
system (Bale & Maguire 2004) despite the athlete’s personal benefits. The problem
has given rise to an important question about personal wealth and economic
security against potential representation at international level yet less financial gain
i.e. Wealth vs. Nationalism.
The argument surrounding national identity and the questions behind changing
nationality in the Middle East region can be seen as the most direct affect to sport
identification, development and competitions as a growing capitalist view on sports
people as products rather than professional athlete’s harms less affluent countries
complete sporting structure. Woodward (2007) argues that in society we live in a
period of increased ‘identity politics’, exemplified by the issues outlined in Middle
Eastern sport as migrate athletes leave their birth country to compete nationally
The aim for athletes should be to gain international recognition but if
they have the choice between wealth and patriotic pride then sports people from
developing countries are more likely to decide to change nationality for economic
wealth alongside international competition, creating an identity crisis (Falcous & Silk
Although not explicitly about football, the points raised are transferable across from
general sport to football. This is due to the high demand for elite athletes by Royal
and governmental hierarchy in the Arab States and with Qatar’s high profile 2022
World Cup controversy, the level of investment in overseas stars can be expected to
The paper concludes that there is an ever growing unethical pattern of athletic
migration at an international level. Coupled with this are immoral decisions
to change national identity which will have a negative impact on the future of
international sport. This may result in an elite group of wealthy nations competing
against one another with teams of athletes who have chosen personal capital gain
over the ethos of sport.
Bale, J., & Maguire, J. (2004). An agenda for research on sports labour migration. In (Eds.) Bale, J & Maguire, J. The global sports arena: Athletic talent migration in an interdependent world. London: Frank Cass.
Deutscher Futball Bund- DFB. (2013). Last accessed 11th February 2013.
Dyreson, M. (2003). ‘Globalising the nation-making process: Modern sport in world history’, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 20. Pp. 91-106.
Falcous, M., & Silk, M. (2006). Global regimes, local agendas: Sport, resistance and mediation of dissent, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 41, 3-4. Pp. 317-338.
Kauff, M., Asbrock, F., Thorner, S., & Wagner, U. (2013). Side Effects of Multiculturalism: The Interaction Effect of a Multicultural Ideology and Authoritarianism on Prejudice and Diversity Beliefs, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X). London: SAGE Journals. First Published online 23/1/13.
Schiller N., Basch., L & Blanc-Szanton, C. (1992).‘Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 645. Pp.1–24.
Thibault, L. (2009). Globalisation of Sport: An Inconvenient Truth In Journal of Sport Management, Issue 23. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. Pp.7.
Woodward, K. (2007). Identity and Difference. London: SAGE.
Winter, E. & John K. (2010). A New Approach to Citizenship and Integration: Some Facts about Recent Policy Changes in Germany. Ottawa: Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue Publication.
About the Author
Rowan Tibbs is a Bsc (Hons) Sports Coaching & Physical Education graduate who
studied at Oxford Brookes University. His interest in sport has led to a pathway
specialising in sociology with regards to how human phenomena can affect global
sport and physical education in schools. He is currently training to become a primary
school teacher, where he can apply his knowledge in improving the provision of
physical education for children.
He has also authored a research paper investigating power and knowledge in sport:
research at his blog and can follow him @RowanTibbs on Twitter.
Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015.