The great national debate in football... should foreign players of Italian origin who have immigrated back be considered for the Azzurri?

One of the more heated arguements in Italian football these days is where you stand on the "Oriundi" debate. Or more specifically, should they be allowed to play for La Nazionale??

 

                                 The Oruindi: (Clockwise from top right) Amauri, Ledesma, Camoranesi, & Motta

 

Oriundi is a term used to describe foreign players of Italian origin (at least one of whose ancestors emigrated from Italy) who then immigrate "back" to Italy. There was a time when Oriundi played a large part in the success of Azzurri, and from the sounds of it, they may play a large part once again... Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from the past...

 

"If they can die for Italy, they can play for Italy" - Vittorio Pozzo

In fascist Italy of the 30s, many returning south american players were automatically given dual citizenship (ie no need for naturalization). At the risk of conscription, of course, which is how Pozzo justified his use of Oriundi in winning 2 World Cups. Most people recognize that the Oriundi played a critical role in winning the 1934 World Cup for the Azzurri, and it is quite likely that Italy would not have won without them. Orsi, Monti, & Guaita played a key role in the championship where the Italian squad had as many as 5 Oriundi. Later, there have been many other famous Oriundi including Sivori, Andreolo, Altafini, Schiaffino, etc as Italy benefited from their services till the 60's. I believe that most Italians are proud of their Oriundi and in my humble opinion, they should be. The rules at that time permitted the use of Oriundi in this fashion, so fair play. Great players are great players.

 

"For the loser now, will be later to win... for the times they are a-changing" - Bob Dylan

Pak Doo-Ik. That changed everything. Italy had been underperforming in World Cups for a while before 1966, but that Pak Doo-Ik goal was the final straw. Hard measures were needed, and the Oriundi and the foriegn players in Serie A presented an easy scapegoat (Deja vu, anyone? Sounds a bit similar to the situation in England after 2010). The authorities came down heavily against foreigners, and Oriundi became a thing of past.... Some may suggest that perhaps the Torino air crash a decade earlier was a bigger reason for the decline of Azzurri in those times than the use of talented Oriundi or foreigners in Serie A. But a scapegoat was needed, and a scapegoat was found. It took a decade and a half for Italy to start welcoming foreigners again... its no coincidense that the rise of Italian football in the 80s went hand in hand with increase of foreigners in Serie A... Late 80s & 90s saw Serie A at its best, we may never again see such a glorious concentration of world talent in a single league ever again. An arguement can be made that Italian players benefited from playing alongside the best foreign talent in Serie A.

But we digress.

 

"There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil" - Ayn Rand

The question of Oriundi once again came into fore with Lippi's use of Camoranesi in the World Cup 2006 win. Many people think that Oriundi should not play for the national team at all. Some think that if you were not born in Italy, you have no right to play for Azzurri. Others see national teams as an expression of footballing schools, much more than a mere expression of nationality. The Oriundi who have learnt their trade elsewhere, de-value the great footballing school that is represented by the Azzurri.

On the other hand, it is often argued that since these players have Italian blood in them, live in Italy, and are citizens, they have all right to play for the team. We are living in a world with blurring national boundaries, and it has to be left upto the player to choose which nation he wants to represent and where his loyalties lie. The national coach needs to be professional about it - if an Oriundo adds value to the squad, he should be called up.

So which side of the issue are you?

 

"Let’s not call them Oriundi, let’s call them new Italians" - Cesare Prandelli

Prandelli clearly is taking the more "professional" view, as opposed to the more "sentimental" one. The fact of the matter is that players like Amauri or Motta or Ledesma are eligible for Italy and available to him. Had he refused to consider them (assuming he does believe they will improve his team), then he will lose "competitive advantage" over opponents who are using all resources available to them. Why should Prandelli ignore the resources available to him?

 

"If they are playing well, I can't see why I shouldn't call them up" - Cesare Prandelli

I am with Prandelli on this one. Playing on merit, thats the right philosophy. If he can follow this philosophy consistently trough out his reign, like he has been doing so far, then he will prove to be a huge improvement on his recent predecessors. This is the revolution the Azzurri have been crying out for since 2006. And so far, Prandelli is yet to take a step wrong.