In international football there are big football nations such as Brazil, Argentina France, Spain, Germany etc, these are the nations that you expect to reach the latter stages of international tournaments, when you look through a lot of these teams, quite a number of the players that help France for example reach back to back world cup finals aren’t originally from the country that they play for. Usually these players family heritage come from smaller nations but the players choose to play for the bigger football nations. Certain teams like Nigeria for example could only imagine how good they would be if the likes of Bukayo Saka were playing for them, here’s a question that poses from this, Should FIFA make a rule that footballers should only play for the country of heritage? I asked several footballers in the game for their perspective on this issue.
Kareem Isiaka /Billiericay Town
“Some nations don’t have football teams, or they’re not in competitions, a top player couldn’t be in competitions due to their families’ country not being competitive. “
Adrian Akande/Reading FC
“I don’t believe there should be rules, heritage is one thing but the country that you’re born and grew up in is the one you’re most emotionally attached to I don’t think it should be a mandatory thing you want to play for the country you feel emotionally connected to, it’s a good option to have in terms of playing for your heritage but it can’t be mandatory”
Tolu Ladapo/Charlton Athletic
“No I don’t believe in this, everyone is different if you’re parents are from Ghana but they may have been brought up in England, brought up through the English system, they’ve lived in England all their life so they may want to be more loyal to England. It shouldn’t be a given to play for your country of your family heritage, it wouldn’t make sense for every player there should be a choice.”
Tobu Sho-Silva/Carlisle United
“I’m studying about sports politics and policies, nation hopping was spoken about, I understand from both sides, Mention about national identity and national pride, If you’re English and you play for a smaller team you’re not as likely to play for the first team then you would hop to another nation, vice versa if you can play for France or England, you would do it as it raises your profile.
“It works both ways, the smaller nations lose out, they do need to look into the frequency and perhaps limit how many players can nation hop, players can wait it out and see if they don’t play for the bigger nations they then choose to play for the smaller nations instead.”
Immanuelson Duku/Yorke City
“Being born and growing up in a certain country plays a part on your mind. It is nice to play for the country of your proper heritage where your parents come from
“I was born in Holland even though my family is from Ghana, I have a connection to Holland had friends, speaking the language if you don’t speak the language of your parents’ country it can be tough, you don’t feel attached, the way it is right now it’s fair.
“The way it is works, if you’re good enough you play more for the country you grow up in, but if you’re not good enough you play for your parents’ country, so if Ghana wants me I still can play for the them if I want to so the way it works right now is good, it’s fair, you have a choice so it’s a great opportunity to play for who you want to”
One thing I noticed when asking the players about this was the emphasis on players having a choice:
Immanuelson Duku/York City
“The choice is good otherwise if you get adopted you don’t know where your parents’ are from, that happens a lot, the country you grow up in, play in academies it’s important
“Balotelli is adopted, from Ghana originally, he’s played for Italy U9, U10, if he has to play for Ghana then he has Italian adopted parents it makes it more difficult and complicated.”
Kareem Isiaka/Billericay Town
“A player should just continue with their choices, if they’re forced to play for a particular country, they’ll stop playing international football, the sport becomes robotic otherwise if they’re being told to do this, do that, it’s better if players have freedom.
“You don’t want to be stuck with one choice or it’s like you’re a robot, it’s better for players to make decisions for yourself.”
Tolu Ladapo/Charlton Athletic
“If a player had to play for a country against their will, against what they would like they may not play properly meanwhile other people want to play for that same team properly, so it should be a choice not a final decision given to the player from the authorities in football.”
Given the disparity between the larger footballing nations and the smaller countries should FIFA as the governing body over all these football teams have a responsibility to even the playing field and help the smaller countries?
Immanuelson Duku/York City
“FIFA are more focused on the bigger nations, every nation should have equal treatment, World Cup, Euros, African cups, all nations should have attention so football can grow in more nations
“Africa has so much talent but everyone has to go to Europe to properly ex[press themselves and be successful, I’m from Ghana if we had a decent league it would be better if not everyone has to leave to become Michael Essien or Drogba in relation to Ivory Coast, it’s better to play in your own nation and become that
“In Europe financially there’s more money, better pitches, the way you get looked after so all of that should come from FIFA to create a better environment for players from smaller nations all over the world that is fair
“There should be more financial input like in Saudi Arabia, if there were investors in Africa
“Look at Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo is there now because of the financial input, in Africa if that was there big players would go which would attract more people to football, in Saudi more players will go now so more money and the more people go helps the quality go up, same with China, Iniesta went there, some Brazilian players going there and quite a few in there prime, it helps and brings the quality
“If this happens in Africa the quality goes up so someone growing up in Africa can just stay in the country and know that they can look after their family at the same time”
“The players choose, it’s not necessarily FIFA’s decision, if someone is Nigerian/English the decision comes down to the player who they choose to play for.”
I also asked Kareem about whether the decisions players make are just about being emotionally connected to the football team that you’re brought up in. Or is there are more calculated decision being made here based on the opportunities certain bigger teams can give you if you play for them?
Kareem said: “It’s a bit of both, if you’re not born and raised in your families’ country then why are you forced to play for it, and play blood, sweat and tears to a country you don’t know anything about
“On the other hand of course you get more publicity playing for England than Tunisia.”