The changing of nationality is a problem that needs fixing
The international break usually brings with it a sense of excitement, as well as a small tinge of dread. Mostly depending on who England are playing.
But for the last ten months, as well as following England, I've found myself following the fortunes of the US too. I don't think there is anything strange in this. I live in America, and want the national side to do well, albeit begrudgingly. It doesn't mean I cheer when they score. But I like getting to know who is in the squad, the up-and-coming players etc... In essence, it's kind of fun getting to know a new national team after years of waiting for England to disappoint me.
There is one factor to following the United States' fortunes that is starting to bug me, however. Some of their players don't appear to be American.
The notion of nationality has intrigued me for a number of years, ever since a guy I shared a house with at Uni claimed he was Irish (despite the Celtic cross tattoo on his arm, it turned out he wasn't Irish at all. He even thought the 'R' in IRA stood for Royalist). I found this a strange concept, but it made me broaden my thinking in terms of what makes up someone's national identity.
In the years since, I've tried to figure out a way of setting ground rules for international football (as Fifa have made the lines of football nationality increasingly blurry). This has been difficult as I myself am English. My parents are both English, as are my grandparents. So I decided recently to turn to my friends for help. The majority are overwhelmingly British, apart from two guys. One Irish (born in Ireland, to Irish parents, but raised in Britain from an early age) and one Danish (born in Denmark, to a Danish dad and English mum, raised in Denmark, but now living in Britain). Neither see themselves as British. Here was a good starting point, I thought. But it wasn't until Saturday's game between the US and Honduras that I really started to apply it in footballing terms.
In Miami, Jurgen Klinsmann included yet another German in his starting XI. Don't let the name fool you, Danny Williams is German. Born in Karlsruhe to an American father and German mother, the 22-year-old grew up in Germany, learned his football at Freiburg and now plays in the Bundesliga for Hoffenheim. Also, according to an interview with ussoccer.com, the midfielder made his first trip to the States this year. Not very American, I think you'll agree. Now I'm not destroying the guy, under Fifa rules he is entitled to play for the US. However, the only aspect of his life linking him to the country is his dad. Under my rules, he would be classed as German, as the evidence proves this without reasonable doubt. There are more cases of this in the US team, Tim Chandler being the other recent one. Jermaine Jones before him. A growing number of American/Mexican players are also undecided over where their international future lies. Although many of these players grew up in the States.
Williams' case is not the worst example of nationality swapping of course, it's just one that is closer to my attention than usual. Alex Bruce playing for Ireland (when in reality he's English) then deciding it didn't really `count and wanting to play for Northern Ireland is worse. As are a whole host of “naturalised” Brazilians playing for Poland, Tunisia, Japan and Croatia (to name but a few countries). For me they all makes international football a laughable concept.
Maybe it's because, having followed England for so long, I've got used to having English players representing England (Owen Hargreaves apart, he should have played for Canada). Or maybe it's because I hold just one passport. Either way, if you can continually pick and choose your country, why have international football at all. Isn't picking and choosing what we have club football for?