Racial Justice Bulletin – 18 October

In this week’s bulletin JUST board member, and Professor at Leeds Metropolitan University  Kevin Hylton responds to Arsene Wengere and Jack Wilshere’s ‘English’ comments. This week’s bulletin also highlighted JUST’s recent engagement with the Home Office Stop and Search Consultation and an exciting new job opportunity with JUST West Yorkshire – both of these can be found on our website.

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JUST’s Pick of the Week

This weeks choice read is the second installment of Sita Balani’s ‘A History Of Shopkeeping, Empire and Racial Tensions. This week’s ‘Space, smells and cosmopolitanism in the British Asian corner shop’ draws on both Balani’s ethnographic research and personal experiences.


Read it here: Part 2: Britain: A History Of Shopkeeping, Empire and Racial Tensions 

Feature Article:

Response to Arsene Wenger’s defence of Jack Wilshere’s ‘English’ comments

Last week’s revelation that the Football Association is courting 18-your-old Belgium-born Adnan Januzaj to play for England has since sparked a controversial and contentious response from Arsenal star Jack Wilshere.  Speaking in reference to the potential addition of Januzaj to the English team, Wilshere commented that “the only people who should play for England are English people”. South African-born English cricketer Kevin Pietersen immediately challenged Wilshere’s remark, pressing him on whether he considered Pietersen and Mo Farah to be “foreigners” (interestingly, Mo Farah has since commented that he agrees with Wilshere’s remarks).

In this piece, Professor Kevin Hylton of Leeds Metropolitan University, and JUST’s board member, explains why Wilshere’s remarks were so off the mark.

After Jack Wilshere’s reprimand from Arsene Wenger for smoking last week the duo are now in agreement about notions of identity, who should play for England and also who should manage the England team. Wilshere is a young man who, with his mutton chops and nicotine cravings seems to be a player from a past era where more than a third of top flight players (the old First Division) were British. However his views on national identity have added to a debate that has been bubbling under and erupting to the surface for some time, as Zola Budd and Sven Goran-Erickson would attest. For Wenger, Goran-Eriksson should never have managed the England team without any English connections, he adheres to the idea that national teams should be managed by nationals ‘from’ that country.It is not unusual for players with a diverse family background to make a decision to represent one of the countries they have an allegiance to or even developed an allegiance to after residency. Consider how worse off football, tennis, cricket and athletics would be without footballer, John Barnes who was born in Jamaica, cricketer Kevin Pietersen, born in South Africa to an English mother and South African father, Tennis player Greg Rusedski, born in Canada to British mother and German father, and Mo Farah, born in Somalia and brought up in West London from 8 years old?

The movement of players across many sports is now common and there are even examples of players that could have played for England that have gone elsewhere such as Bolton’s Jermaine Beckford who made his debut for Jamaica this year. A country that I could have played for in addition to England…though I was never pushed to make either decision!

FIFA rules help to clarify Wilshere’s tangle with philosophy and semantics. FIFA state that after the age of 18 a player resident in a country for 5 years or more can qualify to play for that national team (in addition to the nationalities directly associated with their family). Ideas and societies must move with the times and so FIFA’s recognition of international diasporic movements and natural hybrid identities with nation states helps to keep them in line with the world today. The message for Jack Wilshere is that his idealistic notion of Englishness and nationhood in football is moot in regards to FIFA’s ruling on international representative eligibility. Further, I expect that when he saw the footage of John Barnes weaving in and out of the Brazilian team in the Maracana to score one of the best solo goals of all time he didn’t deny that Barnes was ‘English’…or would he have been one of the fans on the England plane on the way home from their 2-0 win who said that England only won 1-0 because his goal didn’t count?

Professor Kevin Hylton,
Carnegie Faculty,
Leeds Metropolitan University

See Eligibility to play for representative teams. Articles 15-18 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes.