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GU-Q webinar at QF set to explore mega sports and national identity

GU-Q webinar at
QF set to explore 
mega sports and 
national identity

Tribune news network
Mega sporting events have placed a spotlight on the recruitment and naturalisation of top foreign athletes, a practice that is making national dreams come true, but also stirring public debate around sports and national identity. To explore these critical issues, QF partner Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is assembling a panel of scholars on a public webinar on February 2 at 6pm titled “Who belongs to a country? National representation and identity at the FIFA World Cup 2022.”
The lecture is a part of the Building a Legacy: Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 research initiative at GU-Q’s Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), examining sport and the social, political, and economic development of Qatar and the region.
The webinar will focus on Qatar’s role in shaping the global conversation about sports and society, as well as the reasons athletes switch nationalities and the citizenship requirements set by international sporting federations such as FIFA. They will also look at how ethnicity and civic nationalism are perceived, as well as the future of citizenship and residency laws in a globalised world.
Visiting Associate Professor Dr. Danyel Reiche, who is leading the CIRS research initiative, explained: “Nationality is a key issue in international sports. In some people’s perceptions, there may always be a hierarchy of ‘real’ above ‘fake’ national representatives.”
Dr. Reiche cited players on the French team that won the 2018 World Cup and the Qatar team that won the 2019 AFC Asian Championship to highlight the diversity of identities in elite sports, where players frequently play for multiple countries. Many of these players have immigrant ancestors, are immigrants, or are the children of immigrants.
“Our panel discussion will demonstrate that there is no longer anything like a ‘pure’ national team, regardless of the country,” Dr. Reiche added.
The complexity of immigration categories will be discussed by panelist Zahra Babar, Associate Director for Research at CIRS. “Do migrant athletes fall into the category of ‘elite migrants,’ those endowed with heightened skills and resources that allow them to overcome barriers to international mobility?”
“Or should we think of them as’sports labor migrants,” she wondered.
GU-Q Associate Professor Edward Kolla, who has an upcoming book on the history of the modern passport, will discuss football teams as the focus of discussions on national diversity and international representation. Noting that laws and international authorities are the final arbiters of who can and cannot play in a tournament or on a team, national representation also includes public acceptance, he said. “The symbolism of when that is granted is often focused on a passport, or a national team jersey.”
Gijs van Campenhout of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Peter Spiro of Temple University in the United States, and Ross Griffin of Qatar University will also participate in the webinar. The GU-Q website contains information on how to register for the webinar.