My Letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter regarding Diego Costa
This is a subject that does annoy me. It’s a sensitive subject as I’m sure there are people out there that will no doubt brandish the racism card. Couldn’t be further than the point. One of the things that makes football so special is the passion that forms part of the game and that it bring every kind of person together for enjoyment. Whether that’s the fans or the players. It may well be being watered down due to money in the game. However, it must be different from an international perspective, if there is no passion or honour in representing ones country what is the point? I remember getting a bit annoyed when Owen Hargreaves was selected for England some years back. This was a kid born in Canada to Welsh and English parents, grew up in Canada and then moved to Germany where he spent 50% of his career. He represented Wales at U19 level before deciding England was the nation for him presumably because England had high chances of tournament qualification. In hindsight, I do not have an issue with this kind of situation. I think it is fair that Hargreaves could play for either Wales, England or Canada and that it was his choice to make. One of the first high profile naturalised players since new ruling came into force was Brazilian Marcos Senna who featured in Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph. For me, this was wrong. He came to Spain when he was approximately 25/6 and naturalised at 30ish to play for Spain. There is no possible argument for how it would be appropriate for him to play for Spain. Even if he hated his birth country or where he grew up, he is still Brazilian. Effectively that’s my point. But read the letter, I have some quite interesting stats and examples that highlight the issue.
Please follow me on twitter and instagram @teekoseyart For my general thoughts and to keep up to date with this blog and other stuff i get up to.
Spanish international Diego Costa featuring for Brazil last year
Mr Sepp Blatter
Fédération Internationale de Football Association
P.O. Box 8044 Zurich, Switzerland
12 June 2014
I feel compelled to write to you, FIFA, the world’s governing body for football following Diego Costa’s inclusion in Spain’s national squad for the 2014 world Cup being held in Brazil. We live in a changing world where people emigrate for a host of good and bad reasons, but the naturalising of players has gone a step too far in my opinion.
Diego Costa was born in Brazil and begun his professional career in football aged 17 in Portugal before arriving in Spain aged 18. In the past 7 years he has played for a variety of Spanish teams (Atletico Madrid, Celta Vigo, Albacete, Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano . This clearly does not make him Spanish. Despite that clear fact, due to FIFA ruling allowing players citizenship following five years residency in said country, Diego Costa in this instance is now technically Spanish.
At the upcoming World Cup out of the 736 players who have been selected to compete there will be 80 players representing a country that is different to their country of birth. That is approximately 11%. Quite a surprising statistic that am sure most people will not expect. In the world we live where emigration in the past 100 years in order to better ones life and the life of your family is so high there is bound to hundreds of thousands of children born in countries different to their parents. Eastern Europe and Africa are perfect examples of this. Algeria will go the World Cup with 16 of their 23 man squad being born in France, but all with parents born in Algeria. Interestingly in total there will be 46 French born players competing in this year’s finals.
Some people will say that you should only represent the country that you are born in as technically that is your nationality. I disagree with this as there are many reasons why it may not be appropriate. It may be the case that ones parents may have been in the country for a short period of time working at the time of the childs birth. My research into the subject has identified a number of players born in a country where their parents were stationed as part of their Army service. Again this is a fair reason why their nationality is questionable. By the same token if you emigrate at such a young age that by the time you are a young adult you have no recollection of your birth nation you are likely to classify yourself as a national of your adopted country. France international Rio Mavuba was actually born at sea escaping a war zone. There are good and fair reasons to opt to play for the nationality of your parents or the country you have spent your entire life growing up in. I would question however playing for the country of one of your grandparents. In my opinion the connection is somewhat too distant, but i do accept it, particularly on the grounds of family pride etc. There are a number of British players who have gained international recognition within the Caribbean through this method, which I would suggest are particularly questionable.
My concern is that the rules have been and will be exploited more and more as years go by. I believe that international football should be the best that a country has against the best of another. It seems that you hear more and more often of international managers and football associations ‘persuading’ players to opt for a specific country due to dual passport or technicalities. Do we really want to get to a stage where international football is just teams full of players from around the world that a country’s football association has effectively persuaded them to play for? I would rather see a Premier League XI vs a Serie A XI or La Liga XI in a separate competition etc than water down the heritage of international football. There’s an idea for someone in the off summer season where there is no World Cup or European Championship! Adan Januzaj is a great example of this modern phenomenon. Adan was born in Belgium to Kosovan/Albanian Parents with Turkish Grandparents. So from the off you would think it was a choice between three nations. No. He moved to England in 2011 and there was talk of him waiting until 2016 in order to bring England into his choice. Clearly ludicrous.
As time goes by I see I real disconnection between the fans and international football that only gains interest during a major tournaments. This disappoints me. It was international football that really got me interested in football. As a teenager i was already a football fan, but Paul Gascoigne’s exploits at Euro 96 got me addicted to football and it has been my passion every since.
USA international Mikkel Diskerud has 20 caps at the time of writing, but prior to playing a competitive international for USA he was also eligible for Norway as the country of birth. He qualifies for USA due to the birthplace of his mother. Diskerud grew up in Norway and plays his professional football in Norway. Diskerud made it public that he would accept a ‘first come first serve’ offer from either nation and had no preference as long as he gained international recognition. I would question a player like this. Surely despite qualifying for both countries you must feel for one more than the other. I believe that international football was once a passionate and competitive level of football, but now it seem as though it is merely about recognition in order to gain financially.
Over the years we have seen a number of Brazilians naturalised all over the world. Brazil seems to be the main country where players are naturalised from with no family connection. Togo once famously fielded six Brazilians in an African nations match. Ironically despite a high number of Brazilian players being eligible to other nations there are only five Brazilians competing at this year’s World Cup not representing their homeland. These are Costa for Spain, Pepe for Portugal, Motta for Italy along with Eduardo and Sammir for Croatia. The reason for the low turn is that many of the naturalised Brazilians play for low ranked nations, with a few more cut from the final 23 men squads announced last week. As FIFA President you once made a comment with regards to the this situation and i quote “If we don’t take care about the invaders from Brazil, then we could have problems at the 2014 and 2018 World Cup finals. Out of 32 teams at the finals, we will still have other nationalities but there could be teams full of Brazilian players. If we don’t stop the fast naturalisation of players in some countries, this will be a real danger. There are 60 million footballers in Brazil but only 11 places in their national team.”, whilst you made this statement little appears to have been done since to combat the issue.
A series of rules changes have been brought in to force regarding how a player can represent a nation. Effectively one can represent through birth, birth of a parent or birth of a grandparent. These seems fair and logical rules for players to fall within in order to represent a nation. The exceptional instance I spoke earlier i.e. Algeria falls into this category. It is a grey area but I believe the majority of people in these categories would classify themselves as being a national of their chosen country. There is an additional category brought into force in 2004, which allows representation to occur following 2 years of continuous residency in said country as long as no previous competitive representation has been made elsewhere. This was extended in 2008 to five years of continuous residency. This is where the grey area become very blurry. In theory and this is to the extreme an uncapped 33 year old player could move to a new country play five years and then represent them at international level at the age of 38 years of age. There is no way this would seem fair or appropriate. Brazil would appear to be the most susceptible of nations to this problem as highlighted by your comment. Their national side is full of top level talent and current records indicate there are over 500 professional Brazilian players playing outside of Brazil over the world in professional league. Of these 500 only 30-50 will ever get the call from the national side. We also have the other side of the coin where emerging rich nations can effectively buy international improvement, by naturalising talent at young ages from poorer nations. Whilst giving players from poorer upbringings the opportunity to improve their lives is a fantastic thing and should be applauded, if the end game from the respective FA is the naturalise the players, surely this is wrong?
I believe that further change needs to be made for the good of the game. The naturalising of players rule needs amending. Its seem illogical for an adult to be able to be naturalised. They have lived their life with an identity that includes a nationality and a heritage, whether that is good or bad it is factual. Children are different. Whilst we can all remember certain aspects of our childhood, it takes years to shape our personalities and that is why most cultures do not classify a person as an adult until they are 18 years of age. That would seem to be a fair age, however this is a world where players move at young ages and parents are persuaded by clubs to move to countries for large signing on fees. For this reason I would propose that the age limit should be 13 years of age with a minimum of 5 years continuous residency and attachment to a professional club in order to change nationality. This would restrict the residency rule due to emigration between birth and 13 years of age. I would also rule that a player must be at least 18 in order to submit a change in nationality. This means that at 18 years of age a player who is now an adult can and should be able to make a reasoned decision.
Football is changing and it is changing fast. Everything is geared toward making money, whether it be players, their families, clubs, football associations, the football authorities, sponsors and even governments. Where did it start to go wrong. Football is surely all about eleven vs eleven, having fun, win, lose or draw played fairly, competitively and with sportsmanship and respect for the opponent. Let’s not drag international football down. Today I will post this letter to you. It is the day of the first game of the World Cup. Let’s hope that the major talking point once the tournament is complete is not Diego Costa.
I hope this letter reaches you and you are able to read it in full, consider my comments and ideas and provide me with a response. If you would like to discuss this further please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.