"Hardly Home But Always Reppin'": Celebrity Transnational Athletes and Representations of National Identity

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University of Alabama Libraries

Expanding on national identity literature that tends to focus its analysis on sports mega-events such as the Olympics or the World Cup, this project sought to examine the ways that certain athletes are both presented and serve as symbols of national identity for their home countries year-round, not just when they are acting as physical representations of their nation during international competition. Using a thematic analysis of both online coverage and Instagram posts of three celebrity soccer players (Christian Pulisic, Mohamed Salah, and Son Heung-min), this study discerned themes from across two distinct time periods: the 2018 World Cup (June – July 2018) and the second half of the 2019-20 Premier League season (January – June 2020) to illustrate how these athletes are being represented, and presenting themselves, as national cultural icons for the formation and affirmation of national identity in their home nations. The analysis found several primary themes, including representations of their athletic identity as both a competitor and a person, their impact on their nation in terms of what they are and what they do for the nation, and the comparisons and nicknames used to categorize and make sense of these athletes in terms of both their status as a citizen of their home nation as well as their status among the global elite in the sport.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Media Coverage, National Identity, Social Media, Sport, Transnational Athletes