Citizenship without identity? Instrumentalism, nationalism and naturalization in Chinese men's football
Representing the nation in sports mega events has become a highly contested issue with the acceleration of the transnational movement of athletes. This research has examined Chinese people's attitudes to the naturalization of football players. The article discusses the findings in the context of the qualifying stages for the 2022 FIFA Men's World Cup by presenting and analysing data collected from semi-structured interviews and social media extracts. Two main issues were debated by Chinese people concerning the identity of naturalized athletes. One was the ethnicity of the naturalized footballers in relation to nationality, with some people questioning whether they belong to China and can represent China. The other issue concerned the players’ skills and ability which influenced considerations of how much they could help China to qualify for the World Cup Finals. In relation to Chinese nationalism, national identity and Chinese sports, this study reveals, through the window provided by the presence of these naturalized footballers, how football, instrumentalism, nationalism and naturalization have been inextricably linked and have interacted with one another within the current context. The article analyses how pragmatic values have negotiated with ethno-cultural nationalism and impacted on the Chinese public's attitudes towards naturalized athletes, their image being presented in variable and dynamic ways by football fan netizens after each qualifying game.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
Published inInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)
Rights holder© The Author(s)
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