Manchester United’s new teenage sensation Adnan Januzaj is yet to make a decision on his international career but has headlined the news for a seemingly wishful reason, following his impressive performance on his Premier League debut at the Stadium of Light last Saturday.
Born in Brussels, the 18-year-old wonderkid, who joined the ‘Red Devils’ from Belgian Jupiler League outfit Anderletch in 2011 for a reported fee of £300,000, has become the most sort-after youngster in the Premier League, even when United has reiterated their intent to keep the two-goal hero- he has become the centre of a debate over the naturalising of players for international teams.
Having turned down advances from Belgium, Januzaj is yet to commit to another country. He is eligible for selection by Serbia, Albania and Turkey aside Belgium, his birth place.
World football governing body, Fifa, states a player is eligible if “he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on a territory of the relevant association.”
Meaning he would be allowed to feature for the English national team by the year 2018 assuming he remains in England until he turns 23.
In a league whitewashed with many foreign talents and less home-grown crops, glad to hear that the English FA has again considered turning negative into positive.
Moreover, with a golden generation of Belgium national team players like; Simon Mignolet, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Marouaine Fellaini, Christian Benteke, just to name a few, now thriving in a nation whose only significant achievement in world football is understandably inspired by the victorious sets of the 1960s, I have always expected something to give way.
Also, bearing the numbers of foreigners who had/ now owes their allegiance to the English youth set-up; it only depends on which side you choose to defend on this issue. Wilfried Zaha (born in Ivory Coast), Saido berahino (born in Burundi) and Raheem Sterlin (born in Jamaica) are all part of coach Gareth Southgate’s Under-21. While others like Victor Moses, Sone Aluko and the now retired Fabrice Muamba could not force their way into the senior national squad, some, having to settle for their birthplace. Wouldn’t you rather accept the talents are in excess to requirement? Or like the rhyme of the ancient marriner, “Water, Water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink”.
Now brings to mind a certain Jack Wilshere’s notion. The Arsenal player has been in the media eye since last week and just yesterday, said only English people should play football for England.
Asked about the Januzaj issue, Wilshere said: “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English.
“We have to remember what we are. We are English. We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat.
“We have great characters. You think of Spain and you think technical but you think of England and you think they are brave and they tackle hard. We have to remember that.
“The only people who should play for England are English people.
“If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain.”
The Englishman would later go on to clarify his comment on Twitter that he wasn’t referring to Januzaj, whose sublime volley helped United stage a comeback at Sunderland last weekend, after his utterances had again succeeded in triggering another debate topic following one that has to do with him being a cigarette smoker or not.
Many would think England are as usual just been optimistic, while Wilshere might have forgotten the five-year residency requirement rule. Albeit, the player’s decision has not been made, he qualifies for Albania through his Kosovan-Albanian parents, Turkey through his grandparents and Serbia as Kosovo’s independence has not been recognized by the United Nations.
When it comes to issues like this, there are many questions than answers. What if Januzaj doesn’t fancy following the footsteps of naturalised British sportsmen like cricketers, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior and Jonathan Trott, who all chose England despite being born in South Africa?
Don’t we think playing for the golden generations of the ‘Rode Duivels’ will some day influence the teenager’s decision to join coach Marc Wilmots’ men? It is a long time before 2018 and Januzaj has to grow first to qualify for selection for a highly competitive ‘Three Lions’s’ squad, just ask David Moyes; he may think this spotlight comes with a scorching cost.
Much ado about nothing and the media fades when the distraction must have long been registered in the player’s psyche. At the age of 18, you still have lots of steps to take towards becoming a better person and am glad the boy is not in a haste. One thing is for sure, Januzaj will choose a team after his heart.