Although there is a common belief that more footballers are representing countries other than their native ones in recent World Cup editions, a historical overview on migrant footballers representing national teams is lacking. To fill this gap, a database consisting of 10,137 football players who participated in the World Cup (1930–2018) was created. To count the number of migrant footballers in national teams over time, we critically reflect on the term migrant and the commonly used foreign-born proxies in mainstream migration research. A foreign-born approach to migrants overlooks historical-geopolitical changes like the redrawing of international boundaries and colonial relationships, and tends to shy away from citizenship complexities, leading to an overestimation of the number of migrant footballers in a database. Therefore, we offer an alternative approach that through historical contextualization with an emphasis on citizenship, results in more accurate data on migrant footballers – contextual-nationality approach. By comparing outcomes, a foreign-born approach seems to indicate an increase in the volume of migrant footballers since the mid-1990s, while the contextual-nationality approach illustrates that the presence of migrant footballers is primarily a reflection of trends in international migration.

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Keywords Migration, citizenship, history, database, international football
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Journal The International Journal of the History of Sport
van Campenhout, G, van Sterkenburg, J., & Oonk, G. (2019). Who Counts as a Migrant Footballer? A Critical Reflection and Alternative Approach to Migrant Football Players on National Teams at the World Cup, 1930–2018. The International Journal of the History of Sport. doi:10.1080/09523367.2019.1581769