Tighten the rules


  • Bend It Like Bedi
  • Sunday, 03 Nov 2013

Diego Costa on one hand is Brazillian-born, but has decided to play for the Spanish national side.

I WAIT for the day when there will be transfer windows for national teams. It might be laughable at the moment, but I can say the same about Diego Costa’s decision to play for the Spanish side - this coming after he played two friendly games for Brazil against Italy and Russia earlier this year.

According to FIFA rules, you can still opt to play for another country (if you fulfill the requirements) if you have not played in a competitive game. How ludicrous is that?

Of course, Costa sparked a “bidding war” between Spain and his native country. There weren’t dollars and cents involved of course (or who knows?) but this episode is a real disgrace to football.

The Atletico Madrid forward is clearly Brazilian but moved to Spain in 2007 after a spell in Portugal. He arrived in Atletico but found himself pushed out on loan to several clubs before being sold to Valladolid.

He subsequently returned to Atletico and is at the top of the La Liga scoring charts.

In the end, Costa said he chose Spain because everything he had in life was given to him by his adopted homeland.

Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari was obviously disappointed with Costa’s choice.

"A Brazilian player who refuses to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team and compete in a World Cup in your country is automatically withdrawn.

"He is turning his back on a dream of millions, to represent our national team, the five-time champions in a World Cup in Brazil,” he said.

Scolari must have a short-term memory because he drafted Brazilian-born Deco into the Portugal team when he was coaching them.

Of course, Deco never played for Brazil so the situation, I would think, is slightly different.

Some other notable Brazilians naturalised by foreign counties include Eduardo, who plays for Croatia, Pepe for Portugal and Marcos Senna for Spain.

Singapore, Japan, Azebaijan, Hungary, Bulgaria, Togo, Armenia and Qatar are among other nations who have naturalised Brazilians in their side.

Of course, these are players who would not make it in the Brazilian side in the first place, but the principal still stands.

Even FIFA boss Sep Blatter remarked about this phenomenon a few years ago.

"If we don't take care about the invaders from Brazil then at the next World Cups, in 2014 and 2018 you will still have national teams - but we will have 16 out of 32 teams full of Brazilian players," he said.

Who’s to say in the future there won’t be transfer windows for the World Cup or European Championships?

Now we have a potential England-Belgium over Manchester United player Adnan Januzaj, who was born in Belgium but who also has Albanian-Kosovo roots.

He has only been playing in England for the past two years, and there are calls for him to be naturalised by the English.

In the past, the likes of Real Madrid great Alfredo De Stefano played for his birth country Argentina, as well as Spain.

Ferenc Puskas played for Spain after massing 85 caps for Hungary, who were unfortunate not to win the 1954 World Cup.

Then you have Jose Altafini who played for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup and for Italy in the 1962 World Cup.

Nothing of that sort can happen these days.  If it could, the likes of Qatar could have Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in their team.

Of course, they must first get citizenship of the country.

In 2008 FIFA extended the residency requirement for players lacking birth or ancestral connections with a specific country from two to five years.

I think they should make it ten years.

Admittedly, the problem is much worse in sports such as badminton and table tennis, where you can sometimes see former Chinese nationals representing European nations (and also Singapore).

African runners are also winning gold medals for their new and richer nations in the Olympics.

I remember when Malaysia lost to Singapore in a tense two-legged World Cup second-round qualifier in 2011. Malaysia lost 6-4 to a team that had players from China, the former Yugoslavia and Britain.

While the defeat was hard to take, it would have been harder to take if Malaysia had to win by depending on imports.

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