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Complicating the Relationship Between Sport and National Identity: The Case of Post-Socialist Slovenia

Mojca Doupona Topič and Jay Coakley

Sociology of sport knowledge on national identity is grounded in research that focuses primarily on long established nation-states with widely known histories. The relationship between sport and national identity in postsocialist/Soviet/colonial nations that have gained independence or sovereignty since 1990 has seldom been studied. This paper examines the role of sports in the formation of national identity in postsocialist Slovenia, a nation-state that gained independence in 1990. Our analysis focuses on the recent context in which the current but fluid relationship between sport and Slovenian national identity exists. Using Slovenia as a case study we identify seven factors that may moderate the effectiveness of sports as sites for establishing and maintaining national identity and making successful global identity claims in the twenty-first century. We conclude that these factors should be taken into account to more fully understand the sport-national identity relationship today, especially in new and developing nations.