The terms ‘citizenship’, ‘nation’, and ‘nationality’ contain different, albeit overlapping, meanings of belonging and identity. The history of the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup provides excellent examples and cases to unveil these meanings in different historical contexts. Three overlapping categories of historical realities are proposed to understand the historical complexities of migration, citizenship and national identity from a historical sports perspective. The first category considers diaspora teams, using the examples of Italy in 1934 and Morocco in 2018. The second category examines teams from expanding and dissolving states, exemplified by Germany in 1938 and Yugoslavia in 1990. The third category explores colonial and post-colonial realities, illustrated by Portugal in 1966 and France in 2018. The relationship among national belonging, citizenship, and migration challenges the self-evident notions of membership and belonging. The historical concepts of ius sanguinis (blood ties) and ius soli (territorial birthright) are well-known markers and symbols of national belonging and citizenship. In nation states, the feeling of belonging is created by membership in an ‘imagined community’, which is often self-evidently bound by these markers. The proposed historical categories partly legitimize and pave the way for diaspora and post-colonial football players who will become more visible in national teams at the World Cup in the future.
Gijsbert Oonk, Who May Represent the Country? Football, Citizenship, Migration, and National Identity at the FIFA World Cup, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 2021.