Simon Barnes

Is Johanna Konta British?

How players like Johanna Konta challenge our notions about nationality

Have you been cheering for the excellent Johanna Konta at Wimbledon? Go, Jo! Or should that be Go, Yo? Johanna (pronounced Yo-harner) was born to Hungarian parents in Sydney and came to Britain when she was 14; her parents moved to Eastbourne while she went to train in Barcelona. She became a British citizen in 2012.

Is she really British, then? Or is she a Plastic Brit, exploiting our great nation for what she can get? Greg Rusedski came from Canada to represent Britain at tennis in 1995, aged 22, even wearing an ill-advised Union Jack bandana. The Lawn Tennis Association (Britain’s national federation) later tried to persuade Novak Djokovic to become British; there were agitated talks during the Davis Cup tie between Britain and Serbia and Montenegro in 2006. I suspect the LTA took one look at his surname and decided he must be Scottish. But he stayed Serbian.

The England cricket team is fresh from victory over South Africa. Who is the more English cricketer: the fair-haired Keaton Jennings with his mother from Sunderland, or Moeen Ali, with his vast Islamic beard and a grandfather from Kashmir? Jennings was born in Johannesburg and played cricket for South Africa under-19s; Ali was born in Birmingham. Before you make your choice, remember that Ali took ten wickets and scored 94 runs in the match.

The captain of the England one-day cricket team is Eoin Morgan, who used to play for Ireland: the Irish are not ecstatic about being England’s feeder-nation. English cricket’s greatest moment this century came in 2005, when Kevin Pietersen’s mad inspiration gave England victory in an Ashes series for the first time in 18 years; Pietersen was born in Pietermaritzburg and came to England aged 20.

Owen Hargreaves played football for England at the 2006 World Cup.

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