Adnan Januzaj and Diego Costa: 'Your country needs YOU! But which country?'
Diego Costa could play for Spain at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the country of his birth. (Getty Images)
October 8th, 2013
11:59 AM ET

Adnan Januzaj and Diego Costa: 'Your country needs YOU! But which country?'

It is arguably World War I's most iconic image - Lord Kitchener’s handlebar-mustached face, with his pointing finger almost coming out of the poster, above the slogan: “Your country needs YOU.”

Now superimpose Kitchener’s face with that of England manager Roy Hodgson or Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, with their pointing fingers above the slogan: “I’m a bit short of players: Your country needs YOU.”

Long gone are the days when a manager would pick his international squad from a collection of players born in their homeland. War, ethnic conflict and the relentless march of globalization have changed all that.

Hodgson’s tenure as national coach - like so many of his predecessors' - has been largely defined by just how few players he has to choose from given the paucity of Englishmen now playing in the Premier League.

Desperate for success, clubs have used bumper television payments to stock their squads with talented overseas stars rather than developing their own players.

But there is hope on the horizon for Hodgson in the shape of a host of promising youngsters coming through the ranks. Youngsters like Saido Berahino of West Brom, who could break into the England senior team before next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

The 20-year-old Burundi-born striker recently made the headlines when he scored the winner in the West Brom’s 2-1 win at Manchester United.

Berahino came to England with his family at the age of 10 in 2003 after fleeing his African home.

"Burundi is motherland to me," Berahino told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. "I will always be a Burundian regardless of what happens, even if I become a successful Premier League player.

"Playing for England is totally different. They have given me a second chance in life, provided my family with a different type of lifestyle.”

If Hodgson’s dour style of football has frequently been criticized - some have dubbed it “Hodgeball” - let it not be said the 66-year-old former Liverpool and Inter Milan coach has been found wanting in the future-proofing department.

Liverpool’s 20-year-old defender Tiago Ilori and Manchester United's Belgium-born 18-year-old midfielder Adnan Januzaj, who scored twice on his full debut in the Premier League champions’ 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday, could both potentially play for England.

Indeed Januzaj is spoiled for choice - he could potentially play for Belgium, Albania, Turkey, Serbia or Kosovo, which has yet to be recognized by FIFA. This week he reportedly turned down the chance to join Belgium's full international squad.

“I think he has a choice of three or four countries he can play for,” United manager David Moyes said of Januzaj, who has Albanian-Kosovar parents, in an interview with the BBC.

“Belgium have already tried to call him up, Albania and Croatia too. I think he would be able to play for England because of residency in five years.”

Hodgson has admitted he would welcome a debate within England about naturalizing players.

"There's no doubt that he's a real talent and we have our eyes on him, but a lot will have to be discussed," Hodgson said of Januzaj’s sudden emergence.

"He's been with United for a long period of time and of course that discussion will have to be seriously debated before we start naturalizing players.

"Yes (he could play for England) down the line if he becomes naturalized or if he becomes a homegrown product."

Ilori is eligible to represent England as he was born in London and has yet to receive a senior call-up to the Portuguese national side, though he is already capped at under-18, under-19 and under-20 level for Portugal.

"I think I would like to stay loyal to Portugal as I've played in every age group for them,” Ilori, who recently arrived at Anfield in a deal worth £7 million, told the Liverpool Echo.

"But I would never close any doors and there is no decision to make yet. If I have the choice then it's not a bad choice to have."

Hodgson’s interest in Januzaj prompted groans of dismay from some leading English football writers on Twitter.

“No way should Januzaj play football for England even if it were possible - cricket, though, is another matter, we're not fussed about origins,” joked the Independent’s Glenn Moore.

“We should probably leave him be rather than embarrass ourselves,” added the Mail’s Matt Lawton on Twitter.

But is Hodgson jumping the gun and would Januzaj even want to play for England, given his family background?

“In the past two decades we've had an empire and a federation collapse, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia,” author James Montague, who has written extensively about the subject of nationality and football, told CNN.

“It suddenly created dozens of new countries and new football teams. War has meant others have found themselves in new countries with a new team, like Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who could have played for either Bosnia or Croatia.

“Januzaj's case is an example of the one hangover from that time. Kosovo is not recognized by the United Nations.

“Therefore its national football team is not recognised by UEFA. Because of the war there many Kosovars settled in Switzerland and Belgium. As they had no state is was easy for them to gain citizenship, or I should say easier.

“Now you have a whole generation of players whose parents are Kosovar, who proudly self identify as Kosovar but who play for Switzerland because there was no national team to play for. Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Valon Behrami are just a few.

“That's why it is not a given Januzaj would play for Belgium or England or even Albania,” added Montague. “Kosovars are ethnically Albanian and some have chosen to play there, like Lorik Cana.

“If Kosovo had a national team today it would be one of the strongest in Europe. But UEFA president Michel Platini is dead against it.

“There has been strong opposition from the Russians and Serbians who oppose any kind of recognition. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is in favor.”

It might also be argued, in the light of hardening attitudes in Britain on immigration, that England's pursuit of players like Januzaj is akin to saying: "You're one of us as long as you help us win the World Cup?"

Even the reigning world and European champions Spain have been looking at the small print of players’ nationality.

Having often reverted to playing without a traditional striker, Del Bosque could in the near future pick Atletico Madrid's Brazil-born forward Diego Costa, who has expressed a desire to play for Spain.

But not quite yet - last week the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said Costa cannot be called into Del Bosque’s squad until the necessary paperwork is completed.

Costa tops the La Liga scoring charts with 10 goals and recently scored the winner in Atletico's 1-0 La Liga triumph at Real Madrid.

Which begs the question, should world governing body FIFA be doing more to provide clarity on eligibility rules for international football?

Those rules enabled Thiago Motta to win three caps for Brazil in matches deemed friendlies before he went on to represent Italy.

Which seems, frankly, ridiculous. And surely if you have played for a country’s youth side that means you have made a decision as to which international team you want to play for?

“FIFA’s rules have been beefed up in recent years,” said Montague.

“Today a player needs to have lived somewhere for five years. It used to be two. But FIFA had to change it as so many Brazilians were ending up in national teams around the world.

“That and countries like Qatar were filling their side with Uruguayans and Brazilians. If someone lives in a country for five years, learns the language and feels an affinity with the culture, why not? Identity is not so black and white anymore.”

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Fikret

    UEFA should let Kosovo National teal play freely!
    Not only UEFA but also other sport organizations should let young people like this football players represent their own country Kosovo, but also in other sports like Majlinda Kelmendi the newest world champion in Judo!
    Michel Platini, serbians and Russians one day should understand what sport stands for!
    This young generation makes me proud to be Kosovan!

    October 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  2. elmariachi17

    lol When I read the title, I thought the article was referring to the ridicule/hate Americans get for using the word 'soccer'. Football people, please.

    October 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  3. jay

    what a shame kosovan players can not play for their country.
    shame on you platini & fifa

    October 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • egzon

      Yes, it's a shame for them

      October 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  4. nemo

    If you are a legal citizen of that country, then you get to play for that country. Simple.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  5. Drake

    National teams should be again made only from those of their nationality. The system currently allows already rich and huge nations to freely pick from among their local talents and "buy people" from abroad. I can already see that using this system will make Bahrain and China football world champions in a century or less. Long gone are the good days of proper local teams, of great football like that of the time of the Golden Team from Hungary. You can't wholeheartedly cheer for your flag bearing team when you know it barely has any people in it that have your nationality, or perhaps are not even able to speak your language.

    October 9, 2013 at 8:15 am | Reply
    • jorge peredo

      Yes you are 100% right,national team should be from the country they were born..

      October 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  6. afunewilliams

    FIFA should change its rules to allow players from different nationalities represent a given country in football competitions.This will avoid scenarios where a good teams qualifies convincingly only to be disqualified for fielding in eligible players

    October 9, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  7. billihockey275

    This is an issue that doesn't make as much sense to a U.S. citizen, because we are all, in some way or another in this boat. Some of us could play, hypothetically, for Italy, or Poland, or Ireland, or China, or India, or Mexico as well as the US because of family immigration (this would require us actually being good enough at soccer).

    October 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  8. jorge peredo

    It would not have the same feeling and emotions of the game,which would really loose credibility,a matter of fact the ball is round so let the coaches see what strategy the need to use so as to win a game of good football.example look at France their team does not give much emotion like the Argentinian and brazilians,that part should be respected.

    October 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  9. Tony Sark

    But Jack Wilshere said no.

    October 12, 2013 at 9:04 am | Reply
  10. omari

    I think allowing players who are born in a particular country to play for another country will discourage homegrown talents to play for their country as they will feel their football federation is opting to trust players who have originated from another country and not the homegrown players who are naturally born in that country.

    October 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  11. Javier Garcia

    Fifa's requirements I think are already stringent enough, at least for the time being. All these situations are a natural result of globalisation. It is funny that Brazil complains it when if you look at their team, they are the first to be benefit from having their best players in the best leagues. Do you think Dani Alves is the same player who came to Spain 10 years ago (a third of his total 30 years)? Or Marcelo? Or Diego Costa when he arrived with only 18 years old? My point is that all these players aren’t, from a pure football point of view, pure Brazilians. Or let’s take the case of Messi. Can he be considered 100% Argentinean (from a football perspective again) when he arrived in Barcelona being only 13 years old? So let’s not try to be too purist about the subject because in today’s globalized football situations like these are naturally normal.

    October 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  12. egzon

    KOSOVO <3 , UEFA and FIFA are afraid that you're going to be one of the strongest in Europe .
    SHAME on you Europe !!!

    October 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  13. bardha

    UEFA and FIFA should recognize Kosovo and its sport as over 100 countries already did; US, Great Britain,Germany, Switzerland,Italy etc.
    Kosovo will be having a great national team in the future b/c football is loved by everyone here and are many young talents.
    Go Kosovo and our mother land Albania :-)

    October 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  14. Rocky

    The Kosovar Albanians are born talented sportsman, boxing, judo, karate, football, basketball we got everything, but we are not aloud to represent our Country. But we will Reprezent Albania.
    The next 4/5 years Albanian Football team will be Number one in Europe. our future is coming, our enemys know that and we don't care.
    Thanks CNN

    October 16, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  15. stallionheart

    Reblogged this on Find me cause I'll never find you .

    October 29, 2013 at 3:56 am | Reply
  16. Naio

    Kosovo National team could be a super force in football,we have so many talents and it is so unfair why Fifa and Uefa is infected on politics ,shame on you Fifa shame on you Uefa

    February 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Reply

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