There has been quite a debate in recent years about who should be qualified to play for their country in rugby and other sports. In the last World Cup, it was reported, Argentina were the only team where the full squad was born in Argentina. Both England and Ireland rely on “foreign-born” players and Australia and New Zealand both rely on Pacific Islanders. Some commentators say this is unfair on “home-grown” players but the debate is more complex than that.
Rules on representing your country in sport are complex and vary by sport. Your nationality, where you were born, where you live and whether you have represented another country before are often factors. Indeed rules may even differ by competition with the Olympic Games often have different criteria that for example the World Championship in a sport.
Some say your right to represent your country should be driven by your nationality. But that’s not so easy – does it also apply if you were born somewhere else and have gained nationality by living in that country for a long time? Or what if are a national of one country but emigrated to another country when you were a baby or even born in another country but entitled to nationality as a result of your parents or even grandparents, when you may never have even visited that country? Or are we really saying you must be born and breed in a country and be a national to “qualify” ? Nationality, it seems, is a course criteria.
But so is residency. For example if you have lived in a country for a long time and are a permanent resident, surely you should be allow represent your country. But how long is a long time? 10 years or 3 years ? Any length of time you pick is going to have people on the wrong side of threshold.
Maybe we need to look at this differently. What really defines your identity is (guess what) what you identify with. And that is hard to measure – it is not all about residency or nationality. It is about what you feel. Clearly sport needs rules about representation but they are always going to be imperfect and can never predict what you really identify with.