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Jack Wilshere sparks debate: Should Adnan Januzaj be allowed to play for England?

Oct 8, 2013, 11:08 PM EDT

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The FIFA rules regarding player nation eligibility are muddy, murky, and downright confusing.

However, reports all over England are indicating Roy Hodgson will try his hardest to recruit Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj, despite the player being of Belgian and Kosovan descent.

Even if he ultimately cannot play for England, he is already eligible to represent five (!!) countries: Belgium (his birthplace), Kosovo (his parents’ birthplace), Turkey (his grandparents’ birthplace), Serbia and Albania (due to the disputed political status of Kosovo).

Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? Jack Wilshere thinks so.

“The only people who should play for England are English people” Wilshere emphatically told the Daily Mail. “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I’m not going to play for Spain.”

If Januzaj continues to shine for Manchester United, obviously Hodgson will push hard for his services.  But, while maybe harsh, broad, and a bit ignorant, Wilshere makes his point.

What makes someone a member of a certain nationality? Must you hold a passport to a certain country to represent them? Can you only represent the country you were born in? What about the nationality of your parents or relatives?  What of players born elsewhere, but move to their home countries while very young and are raised there?

source: APThe lines are incredibly blurry, and nobody knows the right answer – or if there even is one.  But Wilshere certainly believes, in this case, it’s wrong.

“We have to remember what we are, we are English and we tackle hard and we are tough on the pitch and we are hard to beat. We have great characters. You think of Spain and they are technical, but you think of England and you think they are brave and they tackle hard.”

While style of play may not be the biggest issue, the Arsenal star certainly makes his opinion clear.

The rules are quite confusing.  Reports dispute whether Januzaj can play for England after this year, or whether he would have to wait until 2018.  The latter is more likely, since FIFA requires a player remain in his home country for a full five years after the age of 18, or gain five years of schooling in that country before 18.

Januzaj – exactly 18 years old – has completed neither, but some in England still cling to a lingering FIFA statute that states a player is eligible for a country after living there for two years.  This statute was replaced by the five-year rule, but for some reason was not stricken from the rule book.  While an unlikely loophole, it remains to further muddy the waters.

Is your head spinning yet? If not, you’re better than most.

Whether Januzaj is eventually able to play for England or not (it seems unlikely), the rules remain both confusing and off the target.  It would seem some serious work must be done.

But what makes someone English? Or French? Or Belgian? Or American? It’s a tough job, but the line must be drawn somewhere, and it’s what FIFA must begrudgingly do.

  1. uconnryan - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Wilshere just wants to be the only “English prodigy” and not have Januzaj steal his thunder.

  2. dfstell - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    I can see both sides of this. On one hand, a melting pot of a team is pretty cool. I mean, you look at all the names on the USMNT and can’t help but be proud of all the heritages: Donovan, Howard, Gonzales, Zusi, Altidore,Johannson, etc. England is kinda the same because it’s an attractive country to immigrate to. Same thing for a lot of Western Europe.

    On the other hand, once we’re all a melting pot, then international soccer won’t really matter anymore. Say in 150 years, we’re all a uniform brownish color everywhere in the world, then what’s the point of the World Cup?

    So, I see the charm in a melting pot team like the US has, but I also see the charm in a team like Russia has where every name sounds like a James Bond villain. :)

    But….for the purpose of this piece, it’s silly for the English FA to chase this kid. The only way I’d feel okay with it is if he said that his dream was always to immigrate to England because he loved English culture and wanted to become a citizen. And why would he give up Belgium for England? Belgium is better right now. :)

  3. seanb20124 - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:21 AM

    By Wilshires standards, USA would not be able to field a team.

    FA should ban him 10 games for racial abuse

  4. bostonredsoccer - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    The 2 year rule is still there (Article 6 of FIFA Statutes), but it applies to a player who is born with citizenship but doesn’t have the prerequisites for FIFA eligibility (one of: born in the territory, parents or grandparents born in the territory or 2 years resident). A player can be born with a passport, but FIFA requires you meet one of the situations to be able to play for the national team to prevent, say Portugal, giving citizenship to everyone in Brazil who could show a great-great-great grandparent came from Portugal.

    The 5 year rule is in Article 7 and pertains to players who acquire a *new* citizenship. I see the part about 5 years residence after age 18, but there’s nothing about education (or gain five years of schooling in that country before 18).

    I did find the 5 years of education referenced, but it’s in the Home Nations Agreement for the UK only.

  5. - Oct 10, 2013 at 3:20 AM

    I kind of agree with Wilshere, althought he’s stating these because he’s worry that this kid might grab his spot.

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