The increasing transnational mobility of athletes is accompanied by the growing presence of naturalised athletes in national teams, raising questions about the implications for nationalism and national identity in sports. Hong Kong offers a unique context to examine these issues as a Special Administrative Region of China which has its own representative (‘national’) team despite its non-sovereign status. Using in-depth interviews with 24 informants (fans, players, coaches, etc.), this paper examines how naturalised players from overseas and Mainland China are perceived by stakeholders of Hong Kong football. We found that informants articulated an ‘instrumental-plus’ discourse about these players, and a ‘civic-plus’ conception of nationality. Implications for sport and nationalism in the Hong Kong–China context and beyond are discussed.