Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere does not believe the FA should pursue its interest in Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj playing for the English national team, per the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton.
Wilshere, 21, insists the England team should only be for those who are originally of a certain nationality, rather than those who obtain a passport due to residency during their playing career. Ashton provides the quotes:
The only people who should play for England are English people. If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I’m not going to play for Spain.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 1 p.m. BST
FA chairman Greg Dyke insists the matter is more complex than Wilshere's assessment, as reported by Reuters via Yahoo Sports!:
It is an issue we need to look at.
The idea that someone who is not born here can never play for England is a bit extreme. We wouldn't have Mo Farah if that was the case.
We (FA) will discuss our policy again and make a decision.
---End of update---
The topic has become a major talking point since Roy Hodgson admitted on the BBC's Match of the Day programme that the progress of Januzaj—who is already eligible for Belgium, Albania, Serbia and Turkey—is being monitored by the FA.
As ever, the prospect of England fielding players neither born nor raised in the British Isles has provoked strong opinions on both sides of the debate.
Rather than being a sporting dilemma, it is a question that can provoke discussion on complex issues, including what actually constitutes nationality, the ethics of sourcing players from elsewhere and an individual's right to chose his or her identity.
In Wilshere's case, he believes that—even were he to spend a period of time abroad—he would still be English. Others would choose to disagree.
The question—with several rising English talents Nathaniel Chalobah, Raheem Sterling, Saido Berahino and Wilfried Zaha born outside of the UK—is over what restrictions should be placed on nationalising players. At present, the Home Nations' agreement is that a player must have completed five years of full-time education in the country, per Ewan Murray of The Guardian.
Other countries and sports, though, are less concerned. Spain are in the process of recruiting nationalised Brazilian Diego Costa, Portugal currently select Brazilian-born Pepe, and Southampton's recent signing Daniel Osvaldo is Argentine born-and-bred yet represents Italy courtesy of a great-grandfather.
England's rugby and cricket sides, meanwhile, have not been shy in their use of nationalised players from New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Pacific Islands, in particular, to great effect over recent years.
The FA would not be doing its job if it did not at least enquire as to the eligibility of a player like Januzaj. Whether or not it acts upon its findings is a different issue.
No-one can blame the FA for having a dabble with Januzaj & England - but England or Belgium in their current conditions?— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) October 5, 2013
Although he has just broken into the Manchester United first team, Januzaj is clearly a player of great potential—as shown by the call-up to the senior Belgium national team he received this week, per Marcus Christenson of the The Guardian. That offer was promptly rejected.
There is no saying Januzaj would even want to play for England, but the controversy over Hodgson's comments show it is an area that must be discussed. Wilshere's view, for instance, is not uncommon.
There will be others who argue it is not a level playing field if England do not follow other nations' example. However, it ultimately boils down to a question as to what international football represents, as well as issues of identity.
Should Januzaj be selected for England if available?
It is a debate that could rumble on and on. Ironically, though, the likes of Sterling, Berahino, Chalobah and Zaha are leading the charge for England while it does. Nationality is a complex issue that Wilshere's well-intended comments fail to address.
Ultimately, the FA must decide whether England will choose to benefit from FIFA's five-year eligibility rules and recruit the likes of Januzaj and United team-mate Rafael, or instead choose to make its own judgement regarding a player's true national identity.
With foreign player numbers rising in the English game, it's a dilemma that is only set to become even more common in the years ahead.