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Report: Arsenal agree new deal with American prodigy Gedion Zelalem

Mar 11, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT


Former Maryland native Gedion Zelalem is close to sealing his long-term future at Premier League giants Arsenal.

According to reports from Sky Sports, the German youth international, who lived in the D.C. area during his formative years and is eligible to play for the USA, is set to be offered a lucrative new deal to pledge his future to the Gunners.

Zelalem, 17, has already made his debut for Arsenal’s first team in the FA Cup this year and has been on the bench a handful of times in the PL.

Manager Arsene Wenger is said to be a big fan of the young midfielder who is highly rated to become a star of the future at the Emirates. Zelalem has dazzled in the PL U-21 league and FA youth cup this season and is on his way to being fast-tracked into Arsenal’s first team squad.

With ties to the U.S. and Jurgen Klinsmann keen to keep an eye on the German born midfielder, it seems like Zelalem has an extremely bright future in the game.

American soccer fans, and those who follow Arsenal, will be extremely pleased to see Zelalem extend his stay with the Gunners.

  1. WYMF Editor - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    Sure, having a USMNT prospect playing at Arsenal is a good thing. But if he picks USA, Zelalem could jeopardize his ability to play in England, as he’d be required to obtain a work visa and perhaps have to jump through even more hoops. He might be a long shot for USMNT fans.

    • twerkslikeMiley - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      I’m confused. Maybe you can clarify:

      Why would he have problems playing in England? Plenty of Americans play overseas and I’ve never heard of them having a ton of problems (except maybe Aguedelo).

      • adnan7631 - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Zelalem does not currently have American citizenship. There is the possibility that he could get his citizenship through his father. If his dad gets his citizenship before Gedion turns 18, he can apply to be a US citizen due to his status as a minor and dependent on a US citizen. However, Zelalem currently has German citizenship due to his birth in the country. That gives him European Union citizenry, which means that he does not have to apply for a work permit in any EU nation, including England (well, really Great Britain, but, whatever). German law states that any German who applies for citizenship to another country will have to forfeit their German citizenship. So, for Zelalem to become American, he must lose his German status. That means that he loses his EU citizenship, as well, which means that he must apply for a work permit in England. In order to automatically qualify for an English work permit, a player must have played with their national team in 3/4 of the competitive matches that they have been available for (World Cup and qualifying, Confederations Cup, and Continental Championships. No friendlies.). Players who do not make these qualifications can appeal. And the FA are notorious for turning down appeals from 1) Americans, 2) Arsenal.

        However, Zelalem has appeared in an FA sanctioned match (FA Cup) which further complicates any changes in his work visa status. This is unprecedented in English football.

      • schlom - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:26 PM

        Work Permit Regulations (from FA

        Criteria for Players
        To be eligible for a Governing Body Endorsement under PBS:
        (He already meets Rules 1 and 3)
        2. The player must have participated in at least 75% of his home country’s senior competitive international matches where he was available for selection during the two years preceding the date of the application; and

        Reading those rules I don’t see how Zelalem would not get a work permit. He’s obviously not going to commit to the USMNT without guarantees that he’d get into the game (otherwise why would he switch nationalities?) And since the game he’d play in would be the first one he’s available for he’d participate in 100% of matches. So he would meet all three requirements.

  2. senortibbetts - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    I think you’re confusing things a bit – he doesn’t have to change citizenship to play for the US. That’s purely a decision related to FIFA’s guidelines. So whatever paperwork he’s already had to file to play in England (visa, work permit, etc) wouldn’t change. Or am I missing something?

    • discojoe - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      He would lose his German citizenship, and hence his status as an EU player, if he applied for American citizenship:

      But all things are not equal. According to Section 25 (i) of the German Nationality Act, German citizenship “shall be lost by a person acquiring a foreign citizenship upon his/her application. This does not affect persons acquiring the citizenship of an EU member state or Switzerland.”

      Zelalem has a claim for a US passport but, if he pursued it, he would not only lose his German citizenship but his EU rights, which could affect his ability to work in England. At the very least, he would have to apply for a work permit and that could lead him and Arsenal into choppy waters.

      The system is not designed to accommodate super-talented non-EU youngsters, rather established top internationals. Advice would have to be sought from the UK border agencies while lawyers would also become embroiled. There is no precedent for a Premier League player giving up his EU status and then having to explore the means to remain at his club. The situation would stand to be time-consuming and fraught with risk.

      • drewvt6 - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:31 PM

        why haven’t Jermaine Jones, Fab Johnson, Danny Williams, John Anthony Brooks lost their EU status?

      • fccl - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:21 PM

        @drewvt6 Because they were born in Germany with both citizenships, Gedion was born with German and Ethiopian citizenship.

    • adnan7631 - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      In order to play for the USMNT, he must be an American citizen, which he currently is not. For a break down in why becoming an American citizen is problematic, see above.

  3. drewvt6 - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Why haven’t Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, John Anthony Brooks had to rescind their German passports?

    • bellerophon30 - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      I’m not an immigration specialist, but with those guys I think it’s because they were born eligible for American citizenship, because (if I’m not mistaken) all of their fathers were American servicemen.. This guy has to apply for it based on previous residency..

      Leaving aside that if he’s good enough (eventually) to make Arsenal’s first team, then it’s a good bet that the German national team will come a calling. That will muck things up too.

      • bostonredsoccer - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        Correct. It’s naturalizing to another citizenship that is a problem. Germans born with another citizenship are usually allowed to keep it.

  4. WYMF Editor - Mar 11, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    I don’t claim to be an “expert” on the work permit specifics required to play club soccer in England. But from everything I’ve read, the consensus indicates that, if Zelalem decides to play for the United States and to become an American citizen, he may have greater — albeit administrative — difficulty obtaining a work permit and then playing club soccer in England. On the whole, it would likely be easier for him to remain a German citizen if he wants to play club soccer in England. The difficulties of the work permit issue to play club soccer in England may be exaggerated, but they can’t be ignored in his decision-making process when he reaches the international level.

  5. bostonredsoccer - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    Your use of the word “native” confuses things. It generally means someone born in a place.

    • discojoe - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      There are two general ways to obtain US citizenship by birth, either through a parent (or parents) or by being born in a US territory. All of the current German-Americans and Diskerud have US citizenship through a parent that is an American citizen (as opposed to Aron Johannsson, who was born in Alabama and has citizenship by being born in a US territory). Neither the players with a birth parent that is a citizen nor Johannsson have have to be naturalized as citizens, it is a birthright. Zelalem does not have a birthright to US citizenship, as neither of his parents were US citizens when he was born, and he was not born in a US territory (he has Ethipian citizenship through his parents, and German citizenship because he was born there). Therefore, he would have to apply for US citizenship (which he very well may qualify for), but that application would trigger Section 25(i) of German Nationality Act that I cited above.

      • bostonredsoccer - Mar 14, 2014 at 10:01 PM


        Doesn’t really apply to my comment, but thanks???

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