Nationality is More Than Just a Birthplace

Blog, Sports Writing

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you can’t possibly have missed the coverage of Euro 2016, and with this, you should be well aware of the colossal – and thoroughly deserved – success of the Welsh national team.

Of course, whilst Wales have reaped the rewards of genuine passion and team spirit – along with some fantastic football – during their quest for glory, the same level of success hasn’t been enjoyed by others, perhaps most notably their neighbours, England.

Without shying away from the fact their players have underachieved in yet another major championship, the England side has been left suffering the same old backlash that follows the unnecessary levels of expectation from the media, the fans, and everyone in between, every time a World Cup or European Championship comes around.

However, the one big difference this time around is the ‘humiliation’ of being outdone by the once-lowly Wales.

England Football

This has been followed by a foul bitterness from some English supporters; a desperate search for some kind of logical explanation, as to just how Wales of all countries could achieve more than the footballing-giant that is England. In this search, there have been plenty of conclusions reached; the ‘Gareth Bale is your only player’ claim, the targeting of the likes of Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart, and finally, the utter cluelessness of their newly-resigned manager, Roy Hodgson. But nothing about England not being as good a team as they think they are.

But now, it seems, they have found solace in the centre of their arrogance; Wales would be nothing without their ‘English players’. Brilliant.

It would be silly and untrue to claim that the English-born players within the Wales squad are not important. Ashley Williams, the captain, is arguably the heart of the team; the strong central figure in and amongst the flair and class of the likes of ‘proper’ Welshmen Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale and Joe Allen. Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes have worked tirelessly in attack, and they’ve even pitched in with some crucial goals.

There are a total of nine English-born players within the Welsh squad. But that doesn’t necessarily make them English, and only English.

Robson-Kanu & Bale

There is far more to an individual’s nationality than the location of the hospital you were born in. Nationality is, by definition, the belonging to a nation either by birth or naturalisation. There are other kinds of nationalism, away from plain old ethnic-nationalism, such as civic and cultural.

In terms of sport, there are different ways to represent a country – and adopt that nationality – other than your place of birth, such as citizenship.

If you’ve been watching Wimbledon, you may have been supporting the Women’s British Number One, Johanna Konta. Until becoming a British citizen in 2012, Konta represented Australia, her country of origin.

In the current England cricket team, two of the eleven 2015-16 ‘central contract’ holders are not English-born, and in addition, a couple more were awarded incremental contracts. Plus, it is hard to forget the long list of foreign-born yet influential England cricketers over the years, with the most notable in recent times being the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss, who were both raised in South Africa.

Kevin Pietersen & Andrew Strauss

Looking back at the Wales football team, as another example, it is possible to represent a nation based on heritage; a parent, or grandparent being born in said country. It makes perfect sense. Let’s say, for example, that you are born in England, to a Welsh father and German mother. Surely there is a part of you that is both Welsh and German, as well as English?

Of course being born in England makes these players ‘English’ to an extent, but let’s not allow our ignorance to leave us pigeon-holing every single individual to a single nationality, thus disregarding every other aspect of their existence other than a choice they simply did not make.

Ashley Williams was born in Wolverhampton, however he has lived and played his club football in Wales for the best part of a decade. His children are Welsh, and Williams has said himself that he feels Welsh, has Welsh blood and will probably continue to live in the country once his playing days are over.

Ashley Williams

This is a man who epitomises what it means to be proud of his country; when he puts on that red shirt, sings along to the national anthem with immense pride, and gives every ounce of effort he possibly can for the team and the dragon on his chest.

That is the true meaning of nationality. That is what it means to be Welsh.

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