Ethnicity Issues In Football Cultural Studies Essay

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The fully unified, completed, secure and coherent identity is a fantasy. Instead, as the systems of meaning and cultural representation multiply, we are confronted by a bewildering, fleeting multiplicity of possible identities, any one of which we could identify with - at least temporarily. Hall (1992: 277)

On 15th May, one month before the 2010 World Cup, Kevin-Prince Boateng tackled one of his opponents Michael Ballack during the FA Cup final between Portsmouth and Chelsea. The injury German captain Ballack picked up devastatingly ruled him out of the quadrennial football tournament. With Ghana and Germany drawn together in the same group in this World Cup, Ghanaian Kevin-Boateng has soon become a hate figure in Germany, which is his country of birth. More ironically, if both of them are included in different squads, Kevin-Prince Boateng could play against his half brother Jérôme Boateng who opted to represent Germany. 23-year-old Kevin-Prince and 21-year-old Jérôme are sons of an African father and German mothers. Both of them grew up in Berlin, trained with the German football club Hertha BSC, and played for German youth team with great achievements. However, referring to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) regulation-a football player with dual nationality (or more than two nationalities), who has represented one national team at youth level, is eligible to switch national allegiance (FIFA 2004)-the Boateng brothers are now playing on opposite sides with surprisingly different attitudes:Kevin-Prince Boateng is "proud to be an African", while Jérôme Boateng "never thought of playing for Ghana".

By articulating the complex relations of ethnicity, culture and identity in very direct ways, sports, and football in particular, serves as a particularly useful sociological and anthropological site for examining the changing context and content of different societies (Carrington and McDonald 2001). Since a long time ago, the evil of racism had entered the arena of football. Some football players were abused for the ethnic background by football fans or even their white-skinned companions: the racist slogans (for example, "peanuts and bananas are the pay for your infamy."), the anti-Semitic songs, the fascist salute and crude verbal insults. Gradually, a growing number of footballers and fans were standing up and speaking up to down out racists, and at the same time, football associations, governments joined hand with non-government organizations to eradicate racism. Although racists have not been completely kicked out of the pitch, it is undeniable that the situation has changed greatly.

Other than racism, the on-going story of the Boateng brothers reflects some new controversial issues regarding ethnicity which are emerging in the field of football. Football matches, on an international level, involve two teams that represent specific geographical, cultural and national identities (Giulianotti 1999). The national team embodies the modern nation-state, symbolically wrapping itself in the national flag, national anthem, etc. and requires to unify disparate peoples as an imagined community (Anderson 1983). In this day and age, with the influx of migrants, and the rising cultural hybridity accordingly, the "disparateness" is closely related to the footballers' senses of ethnicities. Further, the growing technological power of the mass media enables football to have its public appeal.

The overall scope of this essay is to examine how, and to what extent, football (the national team in particular) enacts as an integrating power among different ethnic groups within a nation-state. I will also explore the hidden crisis, challenges and countermeasures regarding ethnicity and identity in the context of world football. Due to a tight budget of time, I am not allowed to conduct ethnographic fieldwork, such as interviews or/and surveys to collect data. Instead, I will undertake discourse analysis which will be based on the second-hand interview sources by journalists and visual material from the Internet. I will firstly provide an overview of the background of the cosmopolitan traditions and the "nation-building" process in the history of world football. Next, for the purposes of analysis, the distinctions between "race", "nation", "ethnicity" and "nation-state" will be examined. The main discussion, then, is on the (re)construction and (re)contestation of ethnical identity. By employing Krappmann's (1971) interaction theory, as well as Hall's (1997) theoretical framework of cultural representation (1997) and cultural identity (2003), through various cases, I will consider the relationship between I-identity and We-identity in terms of language, citizenship and the making of foreignness from football player's (especially the ones with dual or multiple nationalities) perspective and form football supporter's (the migrants in particular) point of view as well. I will argue that the multifaceted nature of identity enables "football people" to retain culture and tradition in relation to their origin ethnical root, and to highlight their settlement and acculturation in a cosmopolitan culture and society at the same time. The multi-layered identity, or in Castles and Miller's (1993: 274) words, the immigration along with "ethnic diversity", does offer perspectives for change. Ethnical identity in the context of football is complex, contentious and variable within this multicultural world and indicates how football embodies the complexities of "diasporic lifestyles" (Burdsey 2006), and affiliations in the flows of globalization and transition. Then, I will further take into consideration the risks and underlying power play of the competition in calling up the dual-nationality talents by tow football associations. Finally, I move to consider, football, as one of the most popular forms of nationalist behaviour (Kellas 1991), relating to nationalism and patriotism dangerously remains its dark, discriminatory side.

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