Is international football dead? Would you like to see it off the calendar? I see a lot of fans on Twitter saying they hate it—that they're all about the Premier League or La Liga, and couldn't care less about what happens with England.
I couldn't disagree more strongly. I love international football, and I believe we need to fight tooth and nail to preserve it.
The first step is to have clearer nationality rules. I'd suggest the two following criteria to keep things nice and simple.
- One of your parents must be a national of that country. Not a grandparent—a parent. That means cricketer Kevin Pietersen, who was born in South Africa to an English mother, qualifies for England. Runner Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia but is the product of an English father, the same.
- Introduce a strict nationalisation period of seven years. You need to have been in the country long enough to understand the culture, to have paid tax and lived the life. After moving from Jamaica, John Barnes spent seven years in England before he put on the shirt. In that time he undoubtedly learned what it was to be British.
Get those two rules in place and everybody will know where they stand.
The Adnan Januzaj situation right now makes me cringe. He's a young lad at Manchester United with four options already—Albania, Belgium, Serbia and Turkey—and now we're talking about him playing for England. It's a slippery slope to start thinking like that.
My worry is that we'll start to get world-class players who move from country to country for brand reasons. It won't be the player's fault—give an agent an inch and they'll take a mile.
The clue is in the title. It's the England national team—you should be English. We must not let money get in the way of what the game stands for.
I feel the same about playing Premier League matches in Australia or America; or the idea that the European Championship could one day invite nations from other continents. If we're not careful, football will just become one big mish-mash, with Brazil playing Manchester United because it's financially viable.
Money is the root cause for mercenaries. Oil money is the sole reason we're going to have a World Cup in Qatar for example, when the city of Manchester has done more in the last 10 years for football than Qatar has in its entire history. Why not have the Finals in Manchester?
As for the development of the English game, let's keep the rules tight and start getting the coaching numbers up. If we do things right, soon enough the St. George's flags will be out again and people will love the Three Lions again.
Suffice it to say, I'm available if they need me on the new FA panel Greg Dyke has set up. I've been talking about this for years, and it's time commonsense prevailed.
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