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Why can footballers change international teams? Eligibility

Author: "Sports Betting Game | Online Betup"

Posted in: Jun 15, 2022


FIFA has relaxed the rules on switching international team allegiance, but why can it happen? Goal takes a look at the situation

One of the major talking points within the international game in the 21st century has been the practice of switching teams, which has been facilitated byFIFA. Indeed, there are now plenty of examples where footballers have represented a country, even up to senior level, before later declaring for another country.

In late 2020, FIFA announced at its 70th annual congress that theeligibility ruleshad been updated, in what administrators have described as the first wholesale modernisationof the rules, with added codification and clarification.

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So, in case you are scratching your head about it all,Goaltakes a look at why it is that players can change national team, what the new rules sayand some of the high-profileexamples of switches.

Why can footballers change international teams?

What are the new eligibility rules?

Which footballers have switched national teams?

How many times can footballers switch national teams?

Which nationalities cover more than one FIFA national team?

Footballers can change international team thanks to the FIFAeligibility rules.Article 9of FIFAs Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutesdeals with changing association.

The rules allow a player to change their national team allegiance only once, but the 2020 update also facilitates a reversal of a change requestin certain specificcircumstances.

FIFA allows footballers to change their international team allegiance in recognition of the complexities ofindividual identitythat accompany the increasinglyglobalised societyin which we live.

It is generally accepted that there are many players who hold more than one nationality and whose attachment to aparticular country or countries is inherentlynuanced.

FIFA publishes explainer on eligibility to play for representative teams

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has explicitly acknowledged the need to create regulatory space forsituations pertaining to players who, for example, may have been born in one country then raised in another or cases where a player has parents from different countries.

Speaking at the FIFA Football Law Annual Review in March 2021, Infantino explained: We have amended the eligibility rules for national teams because it is importantin a globalised worldwhere players maybe have two or three different nationalitiesthat they are given the opportunity to choose their country or to change - if certain strict conditions are met.

We needed to address situations of particular hardship and that is what made us go in that direction.

While some, including a number of current and ex-professional footballers, may hold the view that once you play for one country, your colours have been nailed to the mast, FIFA is committed to a legal regulatory framework which aims to avoid the experience of excessive hardship on the part of players.

The term excessive hardship features a number of times in the commentary which was published in tandem with the rule update and it relates to situations where players are effectively denied the chance of an international career.

The new eligibility rules build on the foundation of therules that had already been in place prior to September 2020.

So, the basis of the eligibility rules is effectively the same, but there have been a number of clarifications and some additional insertions.

In particular, FIFA has addedthree new exceptionswhereby a player may change the national team they play for.

First,it is now possible for a player to change national team even if they have played competitively at senior level, provided:

the player held the nationality of their new association at the time of their first official appearance for their first national team.

the player played in no more than three

the player has not played in the final stageofan official tournament such as the World Cup, European Championship, Copa America etc.

at least three years have passed since the players last senior appearance for their previous national team.

So, a player who is eligible for England and Republic of Ireland could, for the sake of argument, play for England in threeWorld Cup 2022 qualification games, then represent Ireland at the 2026 World Cup. The opposite - playing at a World Cup then switching - is not permitted.

Second,aplayer can now change to a new national team even if they did not hold that nationality at the time of their first appearance for their old nationalteam, as long as they last played for the old national team before the age of 21.

It should be noted that there is an exception underpinned by the principle of legal certainty, whereby the age limit of 21 does not apply to players who played their last match for their old national team prior to September 18, 2020, when the new rules were introduced. This exception explains why Aymeric Laporte, who played for France Under-21s at the age of 21 in 2016,is permitted to switch to Spain.

Finally,a competitive cap will not keep a player tied to a national team in the event that they suddenly become stateless - that is, lose their nationality - against their will.

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Nationalitycontinues to underpin the rules and remains the starting point of the entire concept of national team eligibility. AsArticle 5.1states:

Any person holding a permanent nationality that is not dependent on residence in a certain country is eligible to play for the representative teams of the association of that country.

In some cases, a nationality could potentially entitle you to play for more than one FIFA member association(see below)andArticle 6comes into play.

For example, a total of 11 national teams (including the four Home Nations) require a player to possess British nationality in order to be eligible, but Article 6 indicates that they must also satisfy one of the following:

The player was born on the territory of the association.

The players biological mother or father was born on the territory of the association.

The players grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the association.

The player has lived on the territory of the association for at least five years.

If a player acquires a new nationality in order to play for a national team,Article 7applies and the above stipulations also apply in such a scenario.

FIFA has published a wonderfully digestible video explainer of the ruleswhich can be watched on the federations official YouTube channel here.Alternatively, if you are keen to read the rules in their entirety,you can access FIFAs Statutes (2020 edition) here.

Declan Rice famously switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England in 2019, despite having played three friendly games for the Irish senior team.

There have been a number of other high profile examples, such as Diego Costa (Brazil to Spain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Germany to Ghana) and Wilfried Zaha (England to Ivory Coast).