Transcending the borders of Irish identity? Narratives of northern nationalist footballers in Northern Ireland

Darragh McGee, Alan Bairner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In light of a growing trend by which Northern Irish-born footballers opt to pledge their sporting allegiance to the Republic of Ireland, the issue of player eligibility has become the subject of much public and political debate across the island of Ireland. In seeking to shed light on this controversial topic, this article examines the myriad factors which are negotiated by northern nationalist footballers when faced with the choice of which ‘nation’ to which they belong. Based on extracts from a series of interviews with northern nationalist players, the study situates their lived experiences within the broader socio-political landscape of Northern Ireland, highlighting a range of factors from the perceived culpability of the Irish Football Association (IFA) to sporting pragmatism on the part of the players. The research is theoretically grounded in the writings of Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu, in particular by utilizing their respective interpretations of the socio-psychological concept of habitus in an attempt to understand the interplay between the relatively superficial and potentially temporary nature of sporting identity and a more deeply ingrained sense of national or political identification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-455
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Volume46
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011

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