Home Is Where The Heart Is

5 11 2007

As part of a discussion I was having with a friend about sport, the topic of Salomon Kalou’s failed attempt to gain Dutch nationality came up, and my friend, a dutch girl, suggested that he wasn’t Dutch. Further, and more importantly, she found it strange that sportspeople were allowed to represent countries purely by virtue of being naturalised. Far be it from me to put words into her mouth but my impression was that she thought people should represent the country of either their birth, or perhaps their parents’ birth, but not a country they have no blood connection with.

My riposte was that in Kalou’s case he was 18 when he began playing in Holland, and his brother, Bonaventure Kalou, had been playing there for six years prior. One would think that he may have paid visits to his older brother while he was playing, and therefore there is every chance he was exposed to Dutch culture from the tender age of 12. Surely it’s possible, thus, that he felt more Dutch than Ivorian? He turned down several call-ups from the Cote d’Ivoire and onlyfinally accepted the chance to represent the country of his birthearlier this year. This was after being dragged through the courts, failing to get nationalityand finally giving up on his dream of Dutch nationality.

The Dutch have a long history of using their links with Suriname to naturalise players, from Clarence Seedorf to Edgar Davids. Where would the French national team be without naturalisation? It happens because teams wish to get better and truthfully I don’t believe princples ever enter the equation. If Kalou had filled a much-needed role he’d have miraculously been givne the nationality he sought.Football is by no means the only sport that does this either, cricket has a long history of it and New Zealand rugby team would be nonexistent were it not for them poaching players from the pacific islands.

I have no doubt that English cricket fans are glad Kevin Pietersen left his native South Africa and he himself has spoken of his pride representing England. Of course his mother is English, but the important part is he himself feels English. This got me thinking that surely it’s possible that a sportsperson may actually have a greater affinity for a country other than the one they were born into? I myself have always had a great affinity for the United States and would be proud to call myself American, were I ever afforded that honour. Is there any real difference between Kevin Pietersen and Johan Djourou? He was born in the Ivory Coast and moved to Geneva when he was just 17 months, so naturally feels Swiss. Yet he was not born there. I doubt many would argue he is not Swiss, and likewise I think it churlish to argue Kevin Pietersen is not English.

Ultimately isn’t home where the heart is? Does something as arbitrary as our place of birth, something we have no control over, really define who we are? Surely Patriotism, love of your country, comes from within, not from a birth certificate?


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4 responses

6 11 2007
Jayne d'Arcy

I grew up in a small town in Missouri called Hermann. Even though I knew every inch of that town and its history; even though I feel that it is my home, any native Hermannite will tell you it’s not my home. According to them, my home is Phoenix, Arizona where I was born and lived for only three years.

6 11 2007
Mr President

See, I think they’re wrong. Home is wherever feels like home to you.

6 11 2007
Andy D

I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Putting aside that countries will do whatever it takes to get a key player on their teams, if someone feels their home is a particular area, why question it. Let players represent the countries they feel a kinship with.

6 11 2007
Jayne d'Arcy

Oh I know they’re wrong. Just as I feel Hermann, MO is my home despite what the natives say. Someone asks where I’m from, I consider myself a Missouri gal.

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