Often Partisan


After the home game for Everton against Wolves, the BBC interviewer mentioned to Mikel Arteta that Fabio Capello was in the stands, and that Arteta was being mentioned as someone who could possibly play for England – how did he feel about it. To be fair to Arteta, he gave a non-committal answer stating that he doesn’t know, and if the call came he’d have to consider it carefully.

In some sections of the media, this has been whipped up to a point whereby they’re calling for Fabio to call Mikel up. I am writing this blog to break it to you – it’s not going to happen. Contrary to what the media have been saying, Mikel Arteta has never, and more importantly will never be eligible to play for England.

I think it’s all come about because of previous discussions about the possible eligibility of Charles N’Zogbia of Wigan, and Manuel Almunia of Arsenal. As with everything, each and every case is different, and I thought it might be an idea to actually put into black and white what I’ve been saying on twitter for the last few weeks.

The statutes that govern eligibility for international football are the province of FIFA, and they have a very handy guide to them on the internet (warning, huge PDF link). Anyway, tucked away on page 70 is statute 18, which governs Change of Association. This is where the rules stand on a player changing what nation he wishes to play for. These have been updated quite a bit in the last ten years, so it’s easy to understand where the confusion to come in.

The statute states that a player may, if he is eligible, request to change his the association he plays international football for. There are, however provisos. The first reads:

“(a) he has not played a match (either in full or in part) in an official competition at “A” international level for his current Association, and at the time of his first full or partial appearance in an international match in an official competition for his current association he already had the nationality of the representative team for which he wishes to play.”

What this means is, at the time of their first u21 cap, the player must have been eligble for his new nation. For players like Mourad Meghni, who played for the French u21 team and then the Algerian national team or Kevin-Prince Boateng, who played for the German u21 and then the Ghanaian national team, this isn’t a problem as both were dual nationals as u21 players.

However, Mikel Arteta wasn’t. When he played Spanish u21 football, he was only eligible for Spain, and thus can only ever play for Spain – no matter how long he lives in the United Kingdom. The same was true for Charles N’Zogbia, but that is now immaterial as he has been capped at full international level by France.

Manuel Almunia is a different proposition altogether. He has never been capped at u21 level, by anyone; so if he gained British nationality he WOULD be eligble for England. However, a different ruling comes into play. British nationals who were born outside of the UK are eligible to play for ANY of the home nations; a ruling that has been exploited fairly recently by Northern Ireland (Maik Taylor, born in Germnay; and Tony Capaldi, born in Norway) – so should Manuel Almunia want to (and providing he has a British passport), we’d possibly have a bit of a fight against the other home nations for his services.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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