The interrelation between citizenship, nation and state has been called into question over the last few decades. Transnationalism, multiple and flexible citizenship and the discourses in the rights and obligations of citizens and migrants are increasingly changing. However, this often concerned illegal migrants, refugees, temporary (labour) migrants, diaspora and professionals who wished to become full citizens and so on. In most of these cases, nation-states responded to the needs of migrants and/or its citizens.
In this research we focus on talented migrant athletes in football and the Olympics in the context of changing citizenship, ‘complex nationality issues’ and elite migration. We will emphasize how ideas, institutions and context in this ‘race for talent’ have changed over the past century and highlight the paradox of states promoting the ‘nation’ without ‘nationals’.
The case of talented sport elites is relevant because of their high profile in the media. The debates on these athlete’s cases, which predominantly resolve around ‘citizenship’ and ‘national identity’, are contested as they often shape the ‘national’ discussion, and can be analysed through discourse analyses.. Despite the public debates on high profile cases, the origins, the history and consequences of the global battle for talent has to date not been researched systematically from a historical perspective.
Interestingly in this respect is that states are increasingly offering one of their most valuable assets to talented athletes: citizenship rights and passports. States have different and changing rules for granting citizenship. FIFA has therefore come up with a set of rules to install an ‘equal playing field’. FIFA rules imply that if players who have lived or worked for five years in a country, they are eligible to play for the national team of that country. Consequently, early recruitment of talent plays an important role in soccer. Qatar is currently preparing for the World Cup in 2022. Therefore, Qatar is now recruiting young African players to make its final selection of young players in 2017. This places the four components of citizenship, in the traditional sense, under scrutiny: membership, rights, duties and participation.