Gijsbert Oonk and Gijs van Campenhout on sports and identity in de Volkskrant

More and more European soccer players with a Moroccan background choose to play for the Moroccan team at international leagues. Associate Professor Gijsbert Oonk and PhD Candidate Gijs van Campenhout explain to de Volkskrant (in Dutch) why this leads to questions about the loyalty of the players.

The Netherlands could be seen as one of the main suppliers of the national soccer team of Morocco: five Moroccan-Dutch soccer players will play in the Moroccan team during the World Cup. Their choice leads to questions in The Netherlands. Sports journalists as well as the public have doubts about the loyalty of players like Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord) and Hakim Ziyech (Ajax). According to Oonk and Van Campenhout that has to do with the rigid ideas about national identity in our country.

Attack to the Dutch identity? 

The research project Sport and Nation from Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication shows that there is alertness for an alleged attack on our national identity because of the refugee crisis. Hence, Dutch sports players with Moroccan roots are being more easily blamed that they are not loyal to the Netherlands. Their choice to play for the Moroccan team is being seen as an ungrateful rejection of the country they live in. 


Moreover, the demands of loyalty are rather hypocritical, says Oonk in the article of de Volkskrant: "Commentators are surprised when a boy like Ziyech chooses for Morocco and call him ungrateful. But those same commentators were quiet when Jordi Cruijff chose for the Dutch team, even though he played in Spain and was also qualified for the Spanish team." Besides, only the choice of Moroccan-Dutch players for the Moroccan team is seen as a lack of loyalty. Oonk states that Dutch commentators will not speak about the Dutch ice hockey team in the 1980s, which was largely made up of Canadian-Dutch men, or the Dutch badminton and table tennis teams, which are dominated by players with an Asian background.

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