University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Which Boys in Green? Identity Issues in Irish Soccer

Storey, David ORCID: (2016) Which Boys in Green? Identity Issues in Irish Soccer. In: The Playing Field: Making Sense of Spaces and Places in Sporting Culture. Inter-disciplinary Press, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84888-435-9

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Ireland’s political partition has clearly impacted on sport in a wide variety of ways leaving a sporting landscape that includes regulatory bodies that transcend the border and others that mirror the political divide. Soccer on the island is split between northern and southern organisations with both fielding teams in international competitions. Many northern nationalists have eschewed identification with the Northern Ireland football team, preferring to transfer their allegiance to the Republic in what might be seen as an intrinsic expression of a northern nationalist identity. Just as supporters loyalties prove contentious, so too have those of players themselves. Tensions have emerged over the decision by some northern-born players from Irish nationalist backgrounds to elect to play for the Republic, an option available to them by virtue of their entitlement to Irish citizenship. While this phenomenon seems a logical extension of a tendency amongst those from a nationalist background in the north to regard themselves as Irish, the apparent defection of players such as Darron Gibson and James McClean has engendered considerable controversy. McClean probably best exemplifies an apparent political motivation in his decision to opt for the Republic, having provided very explicit indications of his allegiance and publicly expressing his Irishness in ways that are intimately bound up with the city of Derry where he grew up. This paper focuses on on-going tensions surrounding this specific example of sporting representation and citizenship. It outlines the wider political and sporting context to the phenomenon, examines player motivations and explores the various reactions to it on both sides of the Irish border.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information:

This version originally appeared in 'The Playing Field: Making Sense of Spaces and Places in Sporting Culture, edited by Colin Howley and Susan Dun, first published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2016.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Ireland, sport, football, soccer, identity, citizenship, nationalism, FIFA.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Science and the Environment
Related URLs:
Depositing User: David Storey
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2016 15:56
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2020 04:00

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