Of Soccer and Separatism: Why the Basque Decision to Seek FIFA Membership Matters

Jan 7, 2019 | 11:00 GMT

Basque team supporters unfurl an Ikurrina, the region's flag, during a friendly soccer match between the team and the Venezuelan national team in 2010.

Supporters of the Basque select team unfold an Ikurrina (Basque flag) during a friendly football match against Venezuela at the San Mames stadium on December 29, 2010. The Basque team won 3-0.

(RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, the Basque national soccer federation voted virtually unanimously (there was one abstention) to pursue official recognition by UEFA and FIFA, the European and international governing bodies of the sport, respectively. If granted membership to one or both groups, the Basque national team would have the chance to qualify for prestigious international tournaments: the Olympics, the World Cup and Women's World Cup (all administered by FIFA), and UEFA's European Championship, not to mention scores of developmentally valuable competitions for junior national teams. Any soccer fans reading know that this isn't just a symbolic opportunity for a people who have long fought for recognition. The Basque talent pool is quite deep, and I believe their national team would immediately be an outside contender to qualify for each of these tournaments. The push for recognition is a reminder that being a sporting "nation" and a political entity (whether nation or nation-state) are...

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