Contributor Perspectives

In the World Cup, 'Nationality' Is a Relative Term

Tolga Ozyurtcu
Board of Contributors
Jun 25, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) watch their national teams square off in the first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow on June 14.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) watch their national teams square off in the first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow on June 14.

(Pool/Getty Images)

In the internet era, the symbolic dimensions of the World Cup tournament make for easy content, often bordering on tropes. "Country X is playing for redemption and national pride after an absence of Y years" – 36 years, in Peru's case. Or "country Z's diverse squad represents the changing face of their populace and the future to come," as is true of France and Belgium. African teams get a particularly reductive treatment: From Tunisia to Senegal, each national soccer team is "the hope" of a continent. (And when the African teams come up short, some erudite pundit will be there to connect their countries' colonial legacies to the current corruption and instability in African soccer governance. The analysis won't be wrong, but that doesn't make it any more scintillating.) Of the many geopolitical narratives running through the World Cup, the use of foreign-born players seems to be getting more attention...

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