Adnan Januzaj is a name on every soccer managers’ lips in Europe right now. He has come on as the saving grace for a struggling Manchester United. Unlike many of the Red’s midfielders he possesses speed, creativity and goal scoring ability. His ascension to Moyes’ saving grace has also brought him to the attention of many international managers. Because of his current living situation, birth place, and ethnic background Adnan seems to have choices on where he wants to play his international soccer. Adnan is strangely not the only one with a multitude of choices when selecting his international side, and stories like his take away from large international tournaments.
I am proud to be an American and would love to represent my country, but I do understand that due to certain reasons an international would have his heart in a different country from the one he is born in. Genocide, moving borders, war and early moving could make an international player understandably change their loyalties. On continents such as Africa and Europe, where borders are more translucent, this is especially easy to understand. However, many players and countries are starting to take advantage of FIFA’s rules that help these special cases to build teams much like a club would.
Diego Costa is a name that has been floating around. The Brazilian international, despite playing for Brazil in friendlies leading up to the World Cup, has joined Spain because of the playing opportunities. There seems there may be a few alternate incentives as well, but Costa would not be playing for Spain if Brazil wasn’t hosting the World Cup. Unlike every other country, Brazil does not have to qualify because they are the host and therefore have no competitive matches. In that way, Costa didn’t have to make up his mind for those 4 years. His current form in the last 6 months is the only reason the Spanish showed interest him, a situation that would’ve never developed if he played just one competitive match for Brazil. His decision will most likely hurt his home country that will most likely need to depth at the 9 position to compete with many of the better teams from Europe.
There has been talk of Januzaj joining England, which is even more confusing. How can a Belgian born, ethnically Albanian and Turk join an international side that he has almost zero connection to. Arsenal midfielder, Jack Wilshere, was butchered by the media when he inartistically suggested that English soccer should be played by Englishmen. However he has a point. Playing for your country is supposed to be a source of pride for a player, and allowing these players to pick wherever they want to play is a joke. This is not a new trend. Players like Miroslav Klose have picked to play for countries other than their birth countries in the past. However, most of these were exceptions and the connections were more apparent. Players like Samuel Eto’o (Spanish passport) and Didier Drogba (Raised in France) have gone on to represent their countries despite being eligible to play for more attractive options.
This old world problem has also affected the USA side. New Jersey born Guisseppi Rossi is currently the leading scorer in Serie A. However his loyalties have consistently fallen to the home of his ethnic background and he currently plays for Italy. Other players who were raised here in America, such as Subotic, have gone back to their traditional homes.
Nationalism has become a bad word in European countries for the last 70 years. Like a budding flower we get to see flashes of national pride from areas that are usually void of it during the World Cup. Whether it is a proud German nation that still makes their French neighbors nervous or an explosion of Orange at the excitement of Dutch total football, these displays of pride in your homeland is what international tournaments are all about. Even if it is no longer as important to the players for the fans it still means so much.
FIFA has to find a better way to regulate these players moving around. When player movement in the international game is allowed to be fluid it allows for Mercenaries to develop ,which robs tournaments from their experience. Competitions like the World Cup or Euros are amazing because of the heart and soul to them. Yes the quality is lacking compared to club soccer competitions but that’s not the point. We tune in to see players battling it out because for once every 2 or 4 years it means more for them then their match bonus.