Who’s a Kiwi?

New Zealand’s qualification for this winter’s world cup has thrown up an interesting and probably unexpected problem – that of players suddenly interested in playing for New Zealand when they otherwise might not have.

There are three that spring to mind – Daniel, Tommy Smith and Winston Reid. Reid of course was born in New Zealand but moved to Denmark at the age of 10. Since then he has played for Denmark at under 19, under 20 & under 21 levels. At the start of March he confirmed his allegiance to Denmark but then remarkably changed his mind. That he is a Kiwi is beyond dispute. His mother is a kiwi and he was born here. He is good enough to fill the problem right back slot so why wouldn’t we take him to South Africa?

Tommy Smith though is not quite as clear cut. Smith is English but emigrated here as an eight year old. He returned to England at age 16 and played with England under 17 & England under 18 before declaring himself available for New Zealand and making his debut against Mexico. He played for England in the 2007 under 17 world cup and was on the bench AGAINST New Zealand!!!  It appears Ricki Herbert will be taking Smith as part of his squad…but should he? Okay he is eligible for New Zealand but is he really a Kiwi? I’m not so sure. He’s lived just 40% of his young life in New Zealand…he wasn’t born here, his parents aren’t Kiwis…. Within a year of returning to England he was playing for England against New Zealand. To The Thinker, this boy is English and we shouldn’t be selecting him however eligible he is.

Daniel is indicative of so many Brazilians around the world. There’s no doubt he has done a great job for Phoenix and he has often professed his love for New Zealand (well why wouldn’t he?!). He has taken out New Zealand citizenship in the hopes of playing for New Zealand but hasn’t yet satisfied FIFA’s five year rule. Citizen or not, its perfectly clear that Daniel is not a Kiwi – he is Brazilian. He shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near our national team. His situation is similar to another Brazilian the Arsenal player Eduardo – he who is infamous for that shocking dive against Celtic in the Champions League qualifier.

Eduardo was scouted and signed by Dinamo Zagreb when he was 16. He moved to Croatia and since then has learnt the language, bought a home and married a Croatian girl. He lived in Croatia for just eight years before moving to London. He professes his love for Croatia and I am sure that every time he plays for the country he gives 100%. But simply he is NOT Croatian. He is a Brazilian and he quite possibly would never have gone to Croatia except that a Croatian club signed him. Now suddenly he is playing for the national team! He’s not the only one of course. In recent years there have been Brazilians playing for – amongst others – Japan, Qatar & Portugal. We’ve had Nigerians playing for Poland, Australians playing for Croatia, half the French national team were born in Africa and Netherlands regularly have players born in Surinam.

Its time FIFA closed these loopholes and became stricter on which country a player can play for. International football is becoming like club football, with players playing for the country which is the highest bidder. Your country should be limited to one of three things – your birthplace, your parents birthplace or a ten year residency period.

We live in a much smaller world than we used to. World travel is much more accessible  and affordable. The result is that players are playing all over the world ….usually a result of whichever team has come in for them offering the most money.

I am well aware that back in ’82 our squad was built upon a British immigrant foundation. The likes of Almond Boath McClure Malcolmson Wooddin Sumner & Hill were instrumental to our success. When they emigrated to New Zealand, it was always expected & accepted that they were emigrating for good.  New Zealand was their new home.  But those days are gone. Its time to tighten things up.


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