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Visiting instructor explains how immigration affects teams at the World Cup

June 30, 2014

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With patriotism running high during the FIFA World Cup, Americans might forget that just over a fifth of the U.S. team is made up of German Americans. Likewise, the teams of Italy, Mexico, Honduras, Iran, and Japan include players with U.S. passports.

In a recent article for Pacific Standard, David Keyes, a visiting instructor of sociology and anthropology at Lewis & Clark, interprets the effects of immigration and emigration on this summer’s World Cup teams.

“In a world of dual and multiple nationalities,” Keyes writes, “soccer is one of the few places in which people have to choose just one.”

Keyes analyzed the ethnic makeup of World Cup teams, along with immigration and emigration trends for their associated countries. He found that for most countries, the number of dual nationals—players eligible to represent two or more countries—is higher than expected based on those trends.

Dual nationals in many countries, Keyes posits, seem to approach sports with more energy than other players. He suggests that ethnic and racial minorities with few economic opportunities might turn to sport for an escape from poverty. He dubs this phenomenon the “Hoop Dreams effect,” referencing a 1994 movie about two inner-city Chicago boys who make it to the NBA.

Keyes argues that, whatever their effect on nations or teams in the future, the number of dual national players will likely rise. In a more interconnected world, changing demographics will shape the choices players make about which teams they join.

Caleb Diehl ’16 contributed to this story.

Pacific Standard article Sociology and Anthropology