Meanings given to (super-)diversity in the Dutch national team by Dutch football commentators: A historical approach

Gijs van Campenhout*, Arne van Lienden, Jacco van Sterkenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

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International football can be considered the main site for meaning-making processes related to national and racial/ethnic diversity. Various scholars have argued how international football, with the World Cup as its apex, can be seen as a barometer for understanding dominant attitudes towards societal diversity. A key domain where this diversity is interpreted and given meaning to is mediated football. To provide a wider overview of – often intersecting – meanings given to nationality and race/ethnicity over a longer period of time, this explorative study uses a historical approach to inquire how Dutch-mediated football – especially football commentary on television – has given meaning to a diversifying Dutch national team at three moments in time (the World Cups of 1974, 1998 and 2014). Further, it discusses how mediated football serves as a site for the (re)construction of discourses surrounding nationality and race/ethnicity in the Netherlands. Our findings show that meanings given to nationality and race/ethnicity are fluid, context-dependent and reconstructed in a particular temporal context. Further, it appears that key players have provided a significant role in meanings given to (super-)diversity of the Dutch national football team. Commentary on White Dutch key players was dominated by positive comments (in the World Cups of 1974 and 2014), while comments on Black Surinamese Dutch key players was relatively more negative (in the 1998 World Cup). Moreover, our results contrast with earlier studies in that Dutch commentators did not rely on stereotypical representations of Black Dutch footballers as ‘naturally’ athletic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-665
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: This research was funded by a research grant from The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

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