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FIFA considering change in rules governing nationalities of players

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World football's apex body look at an overhaul of rules which govern players' eligibility to play for different national teams.

In the modern footballing scenario, we have seen some cases of players changing nationalities and eventually playing for their new country, where they have acquired their latest citizenship.

FIFA has come up with a set of new rules that will enable players to change their nationalities and play for another country. 

There are various examples in the current scenario of world football where we have seen players preferring to play for their country of origin rather than their new home country, and in many cases, vice-versa.

Ex-Chelsea and future Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa represented Brazil for a short period of time before acquiring Spanish citizenship. After his change in nationality, he started representing the Spanish national team and also played the World Cup in 2014 before facing Antonio Conte’s Italy in the Euros. I guess changing nationalities is not as easy as changing a club due to a text message. That must have hurt.

Moving on, The example of brothers Kevin Prince and Jerome Boateng is also applicable as far as choice of retaining nationality is concerned. Though both of them are of Ghanian origin, life in the Bundesliga and Germany, in general, was enough for Jerome to switch nationalities and eventually he ended up being a world champion, whereas Kevin Prince stuck to his roots and preferred to play for the African nation.

The Nigerian duo of Alex Iwobi of Arsenal and Victor Moses of Chelsea chose to represent Nigeria over England even though both of them are qualified to play for England as the both of them are homegrown players. Had this rule been implemented earlier, we could have seen Alex Iwobi lift the U-20 World Cup in Korea. At least, some Arsenal player would have experienced the feeling of lifting a major trophy.


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Victor Montagliani, head of FIFA's stakeholders' committee, said there were issues regarding the rules, which restrict players from switching between national teams or representing countries they have no connection with. 

"There are so many issues that have come up over the years because the world has changed over the years, the policies of immigration are changing," said the Canadian chief, who is the president of the North, Central America and Caribbean federation (CONCACAF).

"There are nationality issues which have come up in all corners of the world , in Africa, there are issues in Asia and CONCACAF, so its a good time to have a look at this and see if there are solutions without hurting the integrity of the game." 

As of now, players who have played a competitive international game for one national team cannot switch to another national side even if they are holding dual nationality. 

In the Indian football scenario, we have the recent case of Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Danny Batth, who expressed his desire to switch his nationality to play for his country of origin, India. Batth is currently a British citizen but wishes to represent the country where his parents hail from. 

‘Punjabi Wolves’ Danny Batth taking gigantic strides in English football

The first instance of an Indian representing another country in senior level football was in 1999 when Aman Dosanj played for the England senior Women's team back then. She also holds the distinction of becoming the first ever British Asian to represent England at any level of professional football.

Former Newcastle United and Kerala Blasters player Michael Chopra had openly expressed his desire to play for the Indian national team in 2014. He did play the ISL but FIFA and Indian citizenship rules proved to be a barrier for the British-Indian player.

The government's Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) programs are described as offering “dual citizenship.” This is not true, as India does not recognize dual citizenship. This is one major obstacle for any player of Indian origin who is currently a citizen of another country. 

The option of changing nationalities is actually a good one for players who might feel that they might not get as many opportunities in the country where they are plying their trade and can opt for changing nationalities. But yes, there should be restrictions on the number of national teams a player can switch, or else we would have seen Zlatan Ibrahimovic play for Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France and England till now in a period of eight years, and that would have been a little strange.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's journey! Enjoy

Published: Thu Nov 02, 2017 03:22 PM IST

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