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The Shrinking Boarders of International Football

International football still divides opinion. Some see it as an unnecessary disruption of the domestic season and others wait for the days at Wembley to watch teams of Brazil’s stature. One thing is for certain, international sides are becoming more alike domestic teams than ever before. I’m not starting a Spain and Barcelona debate here. What I mean is the influx of players who cannot say they are English, Irish, German, etc. but rather they are of duel nationalities.

Players who bring something different to a side and are accepted as that nationality. Plastic Paddy is a common name given to an English player who takes place in the Irish national team through the grandparent ruling. Sceptics would say this is because they have no hope of reaching the national team for their own country (and in Liam Lawrence’s case that is probably true). For some players however, the nationalities are fairly equal to them and have to make a choice based on the potential benefit to their career.


Following a week of International Friendlies, that turned out to be more interesting than the prior qualification matches, it seems prudent to bring up a much talked about debate during Euro 2012. Germany, with a population of over 80 million, fielded teams where a large percentage of the line up could have played for another country. Whilst duel nationality is certainly not something new, to be able to fill just under half a 23-man squad with duel nationality players is something rather special. There seems to be more and more players in the top divisions having to make the decision who to represent and should it be any surprise that so many with the option to represent Germany have taken it? Germany have finished in the final four in every international competition bar one since 2002. Clearly the national side always has high hopes and look increasingly likely to challenge Spain on the international stage for the foreseeable future. For those with that little bit of German in them the decision seems quite simple. Improve the chances of lifting a trophy or falling aside at the group stage with a lesser international side. I’m sure for some there is an emotional aspect within the decision which makes the simplistic decision to go for the better team appear less rational.


Globalisation has formed a global society, one in which movement between national, international and continental boarders has become far easier than ever before. This has lead to entire communities moving continents to seek pastures new. It is this process than has ultimately benefitted Germany more than any other. Germany has one of the strongest economies in Europe and continues to stave of the threat of recession felt by others since the oncoming of the global financial crisis. This makes Germany an attractive prospect for highly skilled expatriates, and a breeding ground for duel nationalist footballers of the future. With an estimated two million of the population Polish, it should come as no surprise that two of the stars of the German national team of the last decade have been Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose. It is said that the two would communicate together in Polish to confuse opponents. Lukas Podolski has insisted that “there are two hearts beating” within him, but the decision to represent a better team than that of his birth national still took place.


It is not just their neighbours to the East that Germany has profited from. A lot of football fans would have seen the picture below during Euro 2012 that depicted players from the German side with their other nationalities. Whilst most of the nations shown in the picture would easily accommodate the players into their own side, one stands out in particular. Mario Gomez has probably the most Spanish name of any German I know. Given the relatively poor performances of Fernando Torres over the past few seasons a player of Mario’s ability could easily have replaced him as Spain’s leading striker. In any case, I’m sure a triumvirate of Podolski, Klose and Robert Lewandowski would have made Poland a far stronger side to beat and probably would have made a better go at the home tournament.



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England are no strangers to this either. John Barnes is Jamaican born and who wouldn’t have wanted him in the side during the 80s and 90s, not least for the rap in New Order’s World in Motion. Another Jamaican who is making his breakthrough this season is Raheem Sterling. Danny Welbeck’s background is Ghanian but chose to play for the country he was born in, although making your first appearance at international level against the country you decided against clearly could not have been easy.


The latest country to adopt a policy of not only inclusion of duel nationality players but rather actively seeking them out is Italy. The Italians have had a mini resurgance at both international and domestic level. Domestically it is Juventus that are leading the way for Italy as Serie A regains some of the respect it lost during the match-fixing scandal that saw the very same club relegated and stripped of trophies. Much alike to Juventus, Italy have their playmaker in Andrea Pirlo. The elder statesman, alongside Gianluigi Buffon, remain key components of a changing international side. The future for Italy looks quite different. The recent friendly against the Netherlands saw strikers Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli line up alongside one another. El Shaarawy is of Egyptian origin and Balotelli is of Ghanian origin. They are both of a similar age and if they can maintain the right attitudes throughout their careers it looks likely they will be Italy’s strike partnership for some time ahead. There importance, and the importance of other duel nationality Italians, is not being overstated here. Italian national team manager Cesare Prandelli stated when he took over the side that the future of italian football would be in the hands of Italian immigrants, or the “new Italians” as he put it. After all, globalisation brings the skills needed to places that lack them. Apart from Antonio Cassano, a player with a supposedly short temper, the Italians lack real firepower. The shrinking boarders of international football appears to have given it to them.


Bad Football Joke of the Week 4:


What’s the difference between Roberto Mancini and a mankini?

One conceals and the other talks bollocks.

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