As the much-loved international break approaches, so does the endless debate about how players can genuinely represent any country they want. Many great athletes across many sports laud their ancestors while choosing their preferred nationality from a long list, yet this bemusing feature is especially pervasive in modern day football, with the Home Nations at the centre of the controversy.
Take England for example, a nation roaring with talent past and present, a lot of which coming outside of the actual country. England legend and Singapore-born Terry Butcher is the obvious candidate for the most obscure nationality, however Jersey-born Graeme Le Saux must be up there near the top of the list. Current stars include Raheem Sterling of Jamaica, and of course Ivorian Wilfried Zaha, although the elusive Palace winger is seemingly still on the fence about his nationality predicament. Let’s not forget Canadian-born Owen Hargreaves, and of course Nigerian duo Shola Ameobi and Nedum Onuoha, who in all fairness didn’t make it past the Under 21s (yet).
Scotland is another nation booming with outside influence, with a strong England contingent dominating their current squad through the likes of James Morrison, Jordan Rhodes, Matt Phillips and Matt Ritchie. Unfortunately for many England fans they’ve also stolen the services of Phil Bardsley and Nigel Quashie, while also completely robbing the Isle of Man any hopes of an international breakthrough through persuading Kieran Tierney to wear the famous Scotland shirt. Malaysian-born Shawn Maloney stands alone though as the most remarkable of all the Scots.
Wales are also controversially hiding countless English-born nationals in their current squad, including Sam Vokes, Hal Robson-Kanu and Ashley Williams to name a few. Former legends also make the list of potential English misfits, with Vinnie Jones and Andy Johnson just a handful of names among many others. US-born Boaz Myhill also makes the cut, although Welsh hero Robert Earnshaw is easily the most obscure, with the former striker hailing from halfway across the world in Zambia.
Finally Northern Ireland is never short of controversy when it comes to representation, and their current squad epitomises this with yet again a strong English connection. Regulars Oliver Norwood, Jamie Ward and Conor Washington all hail from the country’s bitter rivals England, while the heroic Will Grigg brought his fire from across the water too. Even second-choice goalkeeper Alan Mannus has a story to tell, making his journey from Canada to the world famous Green and White Army.
Countless others are seemingly changing their minds every day. And be it for patriotism, or even just to get some game time, it’s always a huge chance for fans to argue over who owned the star first, or contrastingly who doesn’t want any connection to the player when he turns out to be rather unremarkable after all…