Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Man United's Januzaj makes right choice: not to choose

The international break approaches us like the semi in Duel – from a speck in the distance, it sneakily becomes overwhelming. Today’s World Cup Qualifiers include important matches between the Euro 2012 hosts in Kharkov and a Sweden/Austria matchup that might determine Group C’s playoff entrant, while the contest in Mexico City could keep the hopes alive of both Panama and Mexico.

The European confederation enters the week’s festivities in a curious manner: five separate national Football Associations are “keeping tabs” on a single player, Adnan Januzaj, a winger helping to dispel Manchester United’s Moyesian malaise. It emerged on Monday that all of the Belgian, English, Serbian, Turkish, Albanian and embryonic Kosovar Associations feel as if the Premiership’s most babyfaced star might be tempted to play for their country.

It’s not unknown for a player to choose his nationality based upon his residence or passport in many sports, but football is undoubtedly the most high-profile. To take two higher-profile examples, Croatia forward Eduardo spent the first sixteen years of his life in Brazil, while James McCarthy was born and raised in Scotland but represents Ireland, the country of his grandparents. Tug-of-loves in International football occur about as regularly as they do on Coronation Street.

However, Januzaj’s situation is different. The player is only eighteen and hasn’t represented any country in youth football; although on the exterior it feels … unwholesome for him to play for the Three Lions after two years in the country, should he feel the appropriate affinity for England, Januzaj should be entitled to cast his lot in forever with them, after he has served the requisite time. The same goes for Belgium, Serbia, Turkey (who are notoriously convincing) and even Kosovo, pending … well, a bunch.

Adnan Januzaj should be absolutely allowed – and encouraged – to choose whoever he wishes. Unlike days past, nationality is a now a fluid concept; perhaps even it is a decision that young men should take more seriously than who they play their club football for. What would have the impact been on Wilfried Zaha – and the Ivory Coast – had he opted to play from them instead of England? For Januzaj there might be even more stark implications, what reaction would there be from Kosovars should he choose to play for Serbia?  Choosing a nationality, even just for a chance to play at the World Cup, should not be easy. Therefore, Januzaj is wise to take the time he needs rather than accepting whichever call-ups hit his door first.

The same choice has recently been faced by the likes of Victor Moses, Wilfried Zaha or Raheem Sterling. If only they had the foresight and wisdom to simply make a statement to the effect of Januzaj – I’ll play for who I like, when I’m ready – they might have saved themselves a significant amount of confusion. 

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