By Gregory Bryce
Playing for your country is a privilege, and getting the opportunity to receive the coveted national call-up is a badge of honour for many professional footballers. But while this is so, competition is still an ingrained part of the sport and it plays a major role in who gets a national call-up and when they should. The managers of the respective countries face the dilemma of a picking a select few from a wide talent pool, and at times, players can get overlooked. And unlike with switching clubs for more game time, it is not as easy to switch nationalities, at least, not without the new FIFA proposal that could have major impact, particularly on ‘smaller’ countries like Jamaica.
Recently, FIFA announced a new proposal that will allow for players to switch their nationalities – despite having represented a country before – under certain criteria. The new rule is expected to open up more options for players who have either fallen out of favor with their country or national setup or wish to represent a different nationality due to their own personal reasons.
The proposal will allow for players to switch their allegiance, given that that they:
- Have made no more than three appearances for their current team.
- All these appearances were made under the age of 21.
- A minimum of three years has passed since they last represented the country.
- Is otherwise eligible to represent their desired country based on FIFA’s regulations.
The proposal, which still requires approval from the various FIFA states, is, at a first glance, expected to have a fairly small impact on the world scale as it will affect a relatively small number of players. But, in case of smaller football associations (FA) like Jamaica, there are more far-reaching ramifications.
I had the opportunity to speak on a similar issue a few weeks ago and the latest new FIFA proposal has brought the topic of national representation back to the fore.
In essence, players with dual nationality oftentimes choose to represent the country that traditionally is seen as the better and more lucrative option. France, for example, has the reputation for having players who could have also represented various African teams. For Jamaica, this usually means that we lose out on players to the more resourceful England FA.
Previously, I had questioned whether it is a sustainable choice to prioritize recruiting players who have been rejected by the England FA and only see the Reggae Boyz as a second choice.
But what should be said about the players who have represented the ‘larger’ team, has seen their options slip through their grasp and are now eligible to switch nationalities? Does the new proposal open the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to a new pool of talent to choose from?
A glaring implication of FIFA’s new proposal is that it will now make the practice of trapping young players to a single nationality – with no concrete plans to use them in the future – redundant. It is not an uncommon tactic used by the giants of football, and at a competitive standpoint, it is not hard to see why.
Let’s talk hypotheticals. Let’s say there is a new rising young talent who, while born in a larger country, has the heritage that makes them able to also represent Jamaica. While this player is not a priority for the larger country, it is likely they will be quick to recruit this player for a single match, before having him placed in their reserves, likely to never play again. By doing this, a country has essentially robbed an opposition of a potential asset. After all, they have ensured that this player will never have the chance to play against them.
This is a practice now known as ‘cap-tying’.
Take for example, the case of Munir El Haddadi, who played only once for Spain in 2014 when he was 19 years old, securing his future with the Spanish team despite never receiving a second appearance since. The player tried to switch his allegiance to Morocco, his father’s country, but was denied due to playing for Spain for only 13 minutes.
At this point, there are few, if any, players that would fall under the remit of this new proposal. Manchester United’s 19-year-old defender Ethan Laird could potentially be affected by this proposal as it is rumored that both the JFF and the England FA are currently in talks with the player.
JFF general secretary, Dalton Wint, welcomes the new rule as it could prevent Jamaica from losing out on future talents that would have otherwise been unapproachable.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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