Mixture of Nationalities Gives Euro 2008 Global Flavor | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.06.2008
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Mixture of Nationalities Gives Euro 2008 Global Flavor

When referee Tom Henning Oevreboe blew the whistle for the start of Germany's first match at the Euro finals last Sunday, there were 13 players with Polish citizenship on the field.


German heart, Polish soul? Lukas Podolski's dilemma shone a spotlight on players' loyalties

However, it was not that the Norwegian referee failed to count Poland's line-up, it was just that Germany started the game with two Polish-born players.

And, ironically, it was Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski who combined for both goals, with Podolski scoring in the 20th and 72nd minute to give his "new" country a 2-0 victory against his "old" country.

The defeat prompted an angry Polish politician to call for the withdrawal of Polish citizenship for players who play for other countries.

"If someone performs in the colors of a foreign state, there's already a desire there to renounce citizenship. You can't say it more clearly. And the president should interpret that fact like this: that it's intentional," Miroslaw Orzechowski said.

Podolski, certainly, did not celebrate his two goals as one would expect. "Of course I have mixed feelings. I have a large family in Poland. I have to respect the country," he said.

Poland's coach Leo Beenhakker said he understood why so many players are appearing for countries in which they were not born. "The world has changed," he said.

Nations clambering for stars willing to switch nationalities

Beenhakker himself has a "foreigner" in his team. In fact, Brazilian-born Roger Guerreiro's Polish citizenship was rushed through by Polish officials to enable him to play at the Euro. The midfielder arrived in Poland in 2006 and was only granted citizenship in April 2008.

Guerreiro is not the only Brazilian who is displaying his talents at the showpiece of European continental soccer.

Aurelio Brito dos Prazeres played for Flamengo before moving to Turkey. He then changed his name and became Mehmet Aurelio and started playing for Turkey.

Portugal's national soccer team player Deco controls the ball

Art Deco: Portugal's Brazilian

Portugal's Deco, Kevin Kuranyi, who plays for Germany, and Marcos Senna, who plays for Spain, are other Brazilian-born players who are in their adopted countries' squads.

Another Brazilian who narrowly missed out on making a Euro squad is Juventus striker Amauri, who said he was looking forward to receiving his Italian passport.

"Had the passport arrived two months ago, maybe [coach Roberto] Donadoni would have taken me to Austria and Switzerland [for Euro 2008]. I hope to be in South Africa [for the 2010 World Cup]. I and [Luca] Toni together would not be bad at all," he told Italian media last week.

Former colonies are target rich envirnonments

If Brazil is the country of choice for national teams, Africa seems to be the continent of choice. It is not only the French, who have traditionally made use of their former colonies to boost their national teams, but also several other countries that have African players in their squad.

French national team

France is famous for having stars from former colonies

Les Bleus are playing with Patrice Evra (born in Senegal), Steve Mandanda (born in DR Congo), Jean-Alain Boumsong (born in Cameroon), Patrick Vieira (born in Senegal) and Claude Makelele (born in DR Congo) in their squad.

Swiss defender Johan Djourou was born in the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan, and his teammate, Gelson Fernandes, comes from Cape Verde.

Eastern Europeans the newest soccer tourists

Several of players from eastern Europe have found a new soccer home elsewhere, like Austrians Ivica Vastic (born in Split) and Gyorgy Garics (born in Hungary) or Eldin Jakupovic (born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yugoslavia), who now plays for Switzerland.

There are also several eastern European players who have opted to play for the country of their origin, rather than birth. Many of them are the children of parents who settled in western Europe in pursuit of a better life.

Croatia's Robert Kovac

Croatia's Robert Kovac and brother Niko were born in Germany

Ivan Rakitic (born in Switzerland, plays for Croatia), as well as German-born Croatian players Niko and Robert Kovac and Ivan Klasnic are examples.

This is a trend that probably has FIFA President Joseph Blatter worried.

Although a seasoned "man of the world" himself, he is the driving force behind FIFA's attempts to introduce the controversial 6+5 rule. This states that each soccer club must field at least six players eligible to play for the national team of the country of the club.

Without it, Blatter is worried that the World Cup will lose some of it appeal -- and with it its marketability -- if national teams continue losing their national identity.

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