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Moses and Chadli become latest to ‘test drive’ a nation

January 25, 2011

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/A new phenomenon of ‘dipping a toe’ into the waters of international football is beginning to emerge, further devaluing the ultimate individual achievement in the game.

Rules on international eligibility have been watered down over the years but the changes could not have foreseen the growing global village, immigration and movement of people that is providing the game with a much more multi-cultured generation.

As a result we now have players who are able to ‘test drive’ the countries they are eligible to play for, before settling on a final choice.

It has all come about since the relaxing of the strict rules on international football in late 2003, when FIFA’s statutes changed to allow a player who had represented one country at junior level to choose to play for another country, as long as he was eligible for dual nationality, was under the age of 21 and had not played at full A international level.

In subsequent years, the age restriction was removed too.
It is now allowing players to see exactly where they might fit best, or probably more likely where their own profile and possibility for success is best suited.

The selection of Victor Moses of Wigan Athletic for Nigeria’s squad for a friendly against Guatemala in early February is the latest case.

Moses is an England under-21 international with the potential to go further for his country but born in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Ordinarily it would be an emphatic choice he would have to make between the two countries and having already played at junior level for England, he would need FIFA’s permission to switch his allegiance to Nigeria.

But because the game against Guatemala, set for Miami on Feb. 9, is a friendly international, Moses could turn out for the Super Eagles and if not entirely happy with the set-up, coach or new team mates, still be eligible for England at a later date.

Belgian-born Nacer Chadli is blatantly open about trying out countries.

The Twente Enschede striker is of Moroccan heritage and sought by both Belgium and Morocco for their national side. He says he is not sure who to opt for but in November went to Belfast with Morocco for a friendly against Northern Ireland and got some game time.

“I will only make a definite choice once I figure out what is best for my career,” he said afterwards, correctly arguing that because the match against the Irish was only a friendly he could later still choose to play for Belgium.

He is going for another cap when Morocco play Libya on Feb. 9 in Marrakech but has already hinted he won’t be back in March when Morocco play a vital African Nations Cup qualifier against neighbours Algeria – a match that were he to play in would commit him for the rest of his career to the north Africans.

Over time, as the global village gets bigger, so there will be more and more players of multiple ethnicity, able to flirt with several nations before embarking on a national tam career.

It has the potential to turn very messy and strip international football of some of its dignity.

FIFA might have to look at the rules again to avoid a market taking hold.

PHOTO: Twente Enschede’s Nacer Chadli (L) celebrates with Thilo Leugers after scoring against Werder Bremen during their Champions League Group A soccer match at the Weser stadium in the northern German town of Bremen November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

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