M Hammad Ahmed - Sports and nationality are deeply embedded. Since time immemorial, sporting events have been a source of pride, sportsmanship and competition among various parties involved. Sport is not only a manifestation of a physical contest. It is also a manifestation of cultural and national elements of a society. National sporting contests are often said to instil a sense of community in a state. By attending and supporting different sporting events, people reinforce the identity dimension of citizenship. Supporting a team emphasises an individual’s link to his or her polity, be it a city, a sub-state entity or a country.

Sports receded in a state of chaos and confusion in 21st century. Immigration, both internal and international brought new issues to forefront; dual nationality was one of them. The United Nations estimates that 232 million people (3.2 percent of the world’s population) are migrants (someone who has crossed an international border), up from 154 million in 1990. The children of these migrants often have dual or multiple citizenship and which country they choose to represent can become a matter of incredibly complex negotiations. A number of players were torn between the choices to play for the country they grew up in, as against their country of descend.

Azhar Mahmood, a Pakistani cricketer who is now a British citizen found himself on crossroads when he was extensively criticised for using his British Passport for getting a place in Indian Premier League (IPL). When he was dropped from national squad in Pakistan, Mahmood went back to UK and now plays for England. Among those Pakistani cricket holding dual citizenship Saadat Gul Khan came to Ireland in 1998 and plays for Rush Cricket Club.

On 14th June, 2009 when England played India at Lord’s in the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 Cup, despite England being victorious, the contest was marred by the events earlier that day. Former Captain Paul Collingwood said that the team was jeered and booed by hundreds of British Asians who had come to support the Indian team after the match. The incident sparked a debate over the sporting allegiance of British Asian. Long after the dissolution of the British Empire, England continues to draw cricketing assets from its former colonies and beyond. Players like Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, born in South Africa albeit, form an integral part of wider English diaspora. English County Cricket has also been long overflowing with foreign players. It appears that Britain’s colonial empire looms over English cricket.

Questions are also raised in the former colonies from where a large number of people migrated to different countries. The players from such nations find it very difficult in both the lands. Whereas it’s easy to play in their host country, there is pressure from kith and kin to play for their native land. When Tanmay Mishra was picked in Indian Premier League, several eyebrows were raised. Mishra who is an Indian origin player, has played for Kenya regularly. The matter often takes an ugly turn as happened in case of Moeen Ali. Ali, a Warwickshire cricketer of Pakistani descent was victim of racial abuse when he was called up for the English team. Ali’s distinctive beard, a mark of a devout Muslim made him a subject of abuse on the social networking site. The 'fans' of the BBC Sport page addressed compared him with the likes of 'Bin Laden' and 'Borat'.

The future is likely to see the number of dual national players rise. Some countries may try to take advantage of the system and so will the many citizens.The issue being very complicated and sensitive, at the same time calls for greater concern and policies in the field. It affects a large section of population which feels disenfranchised as a result of scepticism from both the countries. The issue also calls for greater sensitivity and right mindedness to ensure long lasting solution.