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Alternative Title

Examining the role of national soccer teams in bolstering nationalism in Africa

Publication Date


First Advisor

Kim Yi Dionne

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Nationalism, Banal nationalism, Africa, Identity, Social identity theory, Soccer, Sports, AFCON, World Cup, Nationalism and sports-Africa, Soccer-Political aspects-Africa, Group identity, African Cup of Nations, World Cup (Soccer)


This study explores the relationship between sports and nationalism in Africa through a cross-national, time-series investigation of national soccer team performance and levels of national identification between 2005 and 2015. Employing Michael Billig’s theory of banal nationalism and Turner and Tajfel’s work on Social Identity Theory, I hypothesize that strong national team performance can have a positive effect while weak team performance has a negative effect on levels of national identification. I utilize Rounds 3 through 6 of the Afrobarometer survey merged with my own constructed data set that tracks national team performance in the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations between 2004 and 2016. I generate contingency tables that examine changes in nationalism in relation to national team performance. If team performance affects national identity, we would expect to see clustering of countries with similar team performances. I found that among countries included in the sample, those with high and average-performing teams had increased or maintained levels of national identity from their previous Afrobarometer round. Countries with weak or non-competing teams did not have distinct clustering. These preliminary findings suggest that there may be a positive effect from positive team performances without a punitive effect from poor performance. Further research is needed to understand exactly how and when sports influences identity salience.




79 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 75-79)