Gijs van Campenhout

Van Campenhout is working as a Ph.D. candidate within the ‘Sport and the Nation’ research project under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Oonk (promotor) and Dr. Van Sterkenburg (co-promotor).

Current projects

In 2013, Diego da Costa Silva, a Brazilian-born football player, caused huge controversy when he opted to play for the Spanish national team instead of representing his country of birth, Brazil. As he defected his Brazilian’ nationality, Costa’s switch in national allegiance was met with mixed feelings by the public; while some Spanish supporters happily accepted the arrival of the top-striker, others ‘welcomed’ Costa with slogans like “No eres Español!” (“You are not Spanish!”). The act itself, and the mixed responses to Costa’s ‘nationality swap’, ultimately, reflect questions about who belongs to and can represent one’s nation.

The naturalization of Diego Costa illustrates the complexities, consequences and sentiments around migration, citizenship and belonging in the context of international sport, more precisely in the context of national football teams. Despite the moral sentiments and excessive representations in the media on individual cases like Diego Costa, there is very little systematic, historical research on the interrelationship between migration, citizenship and (national) belonging. In the Sport and Nation project we believe that research on football players, and other athletes especially in the context of the Olympics, with migration backgrounds in international sporting competitions – which at present sometimes risks to neglect taking into account the larger socio-historic developments in which empirical events or trends in sports are embedded – would benefit from a more comparative historical analysis in order to contextualise and better understand such issues. Further, as  the ‘growing international mobility of people questions the basis for belonging to the nation-state’ (Castles and Davidson, 2000: vii), the allegedly growing presence of foreign-born football players at the football World Cup is inextricably linked with the attribution of legal membership in different nation-states and changes therein. Although these footballers born abroad all have formal citizenship of the countries they compete for – which makes theme eligible  –, their presence also seems to challenge existing discourses of belonging, in particular (moral) ideas of who belongs to which nation and on what grounds.

Van Campenhout is working as a Ph.D. candidate within the ‘Sport and the Nation’ research project under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Oonk (promotor) and Dr. Van Sterkenburg (co-promotor).

Academic output

Gijs van Campenhout and Jacco van Sterkenburg (2019). The Diversification of National Football Teams: Using the Idea of Migration Corridors to Explore the Underlying Structures of Nationality Changes amongst Foreign-Born Players at the Football World Cup. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 1-26, DOI: 10.1177/1012690219892849.

Although there is a common belief that more footballers are representing countries other than their native ones in recent World Cup editions, a historical overview on migrant footballers representing national teams is lacking. To fill this gap, a database consisting of 10,137 football players who participated in the World Cup (1930–2018) was created. To count the number of migrant footballers in national teams over time, we critically reflect on the term migrant and the commonly used foreign-born proxies in mainstream migration research. A foreign-born approach to migrants overlooks historical-geopolitical changes like the redrawing of international boundaries and colonial relationships, and tends to shy away from citizenship complexities, leading to an overestimation of the number of migrant footballers in a database. Therefore, we offer an alternative approach that through historical contextualization with an emphasis on citizenship, results in more accurate data on migrant footballers – contextual-nationality approach. By comparing outcomes, a foreign-born approach seems to indicate an increase in the volume of migrant footballers since the mid-1990s, while the contextual-nationality approach illustrates that the presence of migrant footballers is primarily a reflection of trends in international migration.

Gijs van Campenhout, Jacco van Sterkenburg and Gijsbert Oonk (2019). Has the World Cup become more migratory? A comparative history of foreign-born players in national football teams, c. 1930-2018. Comparative Migration Studies, 7:22, 1-19,

Gijs van Campenhout, Jacco van Sterkenburg and Gijsbert Oonk (2018). Who Counts as a Migrant Footballer? A Critical Reflection and Alternative Approach to Migrant Football Players on National Teams at the World Cup, 1930–2018. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 35:11, 1071-1090, DOI: 10.1080/09523367.2019.1581769.

Media presence

Gijs van Campenhout (2019). Voetbal en identiteit: kies je voor Marokko of Oranje? De Nieuwe Maan, online:

Gijs van Campenhout and Gijsbert Oonk (2018). The Emergence of Hyperdiversity at the World Cup Football, 1930-2022. Lustrum book History at Erasmus.

Gijs van Campenhout (2018). De paradoxaliteit van de nationale trots. De Staantribune, online blog op

Gijs van Campenhout (2018). Interview with Rob van der Wardt for Australian SBS radio [in Dutch]. SBS Radio Australia, 19 Juni 2018, online:

Gijs van Campenhout en Gijsbert Oonk (2018). Hyperdiversiteit wordt nieuwe norm WK voetbal. De Volkskrant, Opinie, 13 Juni 2018.

Gijs van Campenhout (2017). Burgerschap, nationaliteitsveranderingen en publieke acceptatie. Een historisch perspectief op migrantvoetballers in nationale teams, 1930-2014. Historisch Tijdschrift Ex-Tempore, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.

Gijs van Campenhout (2017). Data contribution to the 'Bosatlas van het Nederlandse Voetbal'. Noordhoff Uitgevers Groningen.

Gijs van Campenhout (2017). Laat voetballers van nationaal elftal wisselen. Trouw, Opinie, 13 Oktober 2017.

Former projects

Gijs van Campenhout and Bettina van Hoven (2014). ‘It is where blokes can be blokes’: Making places at the Auckland University Rugby Football Club. Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 21:9, 1090-1107, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2013.802667.

Gijs van Campenhout (2010). ‘It is somewhere where blokes can be blokes’: Making Places at the Auckland University Rugby Football Club. Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, Research Master thesis in Regional Studies; Spaces & Places, Analyses & Interventions.


Portrait of Gijs van Campenhout
Van der Goot Building
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062 PA

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