England midfielder Jack Wilshere has stirred a debate about foreign-born players in football, declaring that only “English people” should be eligible to represent the national team.
Wilshere’s stance was immediately branded as “too extreme” by the head of the English Football Association.
The issue of foreign-born players being selected by England resurfaced after the FA said it was looking into whether Manchester United’s Belgium-born midfielder Adnan Januzaj can play for England.
Januzaj could become eligible for England in 2018 on residency grounds if he hasn’t played for a senior national team in a competitive fixture by then. He has so far declined to play for Belgium. Because of his parents’ heritage, he is also eligible to represent Serbia, Albania and Turkey, as well as Kosovo, which is not yet recognised by FIFA.
“The only people who should play for England are English people,” the Arsenal player said. “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I am not going to play for Spain.
“We have to remember what we are. We are English. We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat.”
The England team has long featured players who weren’t born in the country, including Jamaica-born John Barnes and emerging talent Wilfried Zaha, Januzaj’s United teammate, who was born in Ivory Coast.
FA chairman Greg Dyke distanced himself from Wilshere’s assertion.
“The idea that someone who is not born in this country can never play here (for England) I think is not real, but how long should they be here?” Dyke said.
Dyke noted that one of Britain’s greatest Olympic track and field athletes is Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia.
“I don’t think being born here (is necessary). We wouldn’t have had Mo Farah on that basis,” Dyke said. “So I think that (Wilshere’s view) is too extreme. ... There have been English players before who were not born in England who have played for the national side and it happens in many other sports. The question is, how far do you push it?”