National sports team

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A national sports team (commonly known as a national team or a national side) is a team that represents a nation, rather than a particular club or region, in a sport.

The term is most commonly associated with team sports. However, it can be applied to groups of individuals representing a country in where regular play is individuals by aggregating individual scores to a get a team result[clarification needed].

National teams often compete at various levels and age groups and there are number of different selection criteria for national teams. National teams are not always composed of the best available individual players.

National teams, like other sporting teams, are often grouped by sex, age or other criteria. The most prestigious national teams are often the senior men's and women's teams. However, they may not be the most popular or successful.

In most cases, a national sports team represents a single sovereign state. In several sports, the Anglo-Celtic Archipelago divides along internal boundaries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are represented by separate national teams, while in the Olympic Games they combine to form a United Kingdom team. The Ireland national rugby union team represents the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in rugby union, and all-island teams are fielded in a number of other sports.

Popularity and notability

The popularity and notability of a national team depends on a number of factors.

Popularity and participation

Popularity of a national team also depends on the popularity of the sport in that country. In some countries a particular sport is very popular and sometimes a national sport. A national team may be popular even though the competition it competes in is not. For example, the Papua New Guinea national rugby league team is extremely popular because the sport is popular in the country, even though the highest competition it competes in - the Rugby League World Cup - is not. In that case, we can see that, even though the sport is popular in that country, the general level they are playing is not so high or lower than other countries that they want to compete with. For example, even if Korean national Handball league team is not so popular because handball is not popular sport in Korea, they sometimes get gold medals in Olympics or World Cup Games. In this case, the game they participate in may become more popular and influence the popularity . That's why the players of such teams have more confident roles on the society like Korean handball players nowadays.


A particular sport in a country may be more popular among certain groups. For example, a women's team may be more popular than a men's team if there is a greater participation in the sport.

Popularity of the competition

The popularity of the international competition that a team participates in has the biggest influence on the popularity of national sports team. There is a certain amount of prestige which is associated with competing on the "world stage".

Competitions with the most teams involved offer the most international competition and are often most popular. The most popular multi-sport international competitions that include team sports include the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games are relatively open for participation. Other competitions that are specific to sports, such as the FIFA World Cup (Association Football), Rugby World Cup (Rugby union) and Cricket World Cup (cricket) allow many countries to qualify.

For instance, the popularity of the Socceroos is heightened during the FIFA World Cup simply due to participation in a global event.

However, how even the competition is also matters. Even if there are a large number of participants, if a handful of teams dominate or if many of the teams are from countries where the sport lack sufficient depth to field a quality side, then the overall competition will not be taken seriously. For instance, Rugby League World Cup has been criticised for an uneven competition, and as a result, the popularity of many of its teams, including Australia where rugby league's popularity is highest.

Competitiveness or success of team

Popularity of a national team can also be due to a team being successful even if the sport itself is not popular in a country.

Strength of domestic competition

In many countries, the national team is the highest level of play available and as a result, it is often most popular with fans and spectators from that country.

In other countries, domestic competitions may be more competitive and offer a higher standard of play and reward.

Individual selection and participation

Depending on the sport, nation, and era in question, membership on the national team maybe earned through individual play (as is the case for an Olympic athletics team or a Davis Cup team), players may be selected by a managers and coaches appointed by a national sport association, or a team may have to win a national championship in order to receive the right to represent their nation (as in the World Curling Championships).


Various rules are used to determine who is eligible to play for which national team.

  • Association football: players qualify by being a passport-carrying citizen of the country, or by their birthplace, or by their parents' or grandparents' birthplace, or by five year's residence after the age of eighteen.[1]
  • Rugby union: players qualify by their birthplace, or by their parents' or grandparents' birthplace, or by three year's residence preceding a game. If a player has ever played for one national team then he or she may not play for the team of a different nation at same or at the next-higher level of seniority.[2] Various controversies have involved the participation of players who eligibility has been challenged - see Grannygate.

Professionalism vs. amateurism

In some national teams representatives play for the love of their sport and country. However, in others, individual players are paid to represent their country.

In some cases, players are either deliberately excluded or choose not to represent their national team on the basis of not being remunerated. This can affect the relative performance of a team. For instance, after allowing professional players, the USA men's national basketball team dramatically jumped up the world rankings.

In other cases, players may be contracted to a club, at home or abroad. As a result, their primary loyalty may be to their club rather than their country, especially if the competition that the national team is playing in does not offer the same prestige.


  1. Johnson, Daniel (2 October 2013). "Football, cricket, rugby league and rugby union - how England's teams compare for foreign-born talent". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Regulation 8. Eligibility to play for national representative teams" (PDF). International Rugby Board. Retrieved 7 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>