Most footballers don‘t have to make a decision when it comes to playing for your national team. Either you‘re picked or not, and if you‘re picked, it is safe to assume that you will most likely show up – at least while you‘re still young.
Aron Jóhannsson is one of the players for whom the choice is not as simple as that, but indeed much more complicated.
The Icelandic striker, who currently plays for AGF in the Danish Superliga, has a tough choice ahead of him but will soon need to make a decision.
Despite Jóhannsson being 100 percent Icelandic, the fact remains that he was born in the United States while his parents were studying there, and not moving to his native country until he was three.
This means that the 22-year-old striker has a duel nationality and can choose to play for the United States if the offer arrives.
Not even a year ago, nobody was even thinking about this possibility. Jóhannsson was barely good enough for the Icelandic U21 side, let alone the United States national team, boasting of forwards such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and the up-and-coming Jozy Altidore.
But in the last year, Jóhannsson has made ridiculous improvements, and is now one of the best players in Denmark and the joint top-scorer of the league.
So far, Icelandic national team coach Lars Lagerback has ignored Jóhannsson and not deemed him good enough for the team, but then again, Iceland has strikers such as Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, Björn Bergmann Sigurðarson, Alfreð Finnbogason and perhaps now, Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen, available.
When Lagerback finally decided to pick Jóhannsson for a friendly against Andorra, he had to withdraw because of an injury. And now Jurgen Klinsmann is interested. Very interested.
Klinsmann invited Jóhannsson to come with the U.S. national team to a training camp in January, an offer which Jóhannsson accepted, but again unfortunately – he had to withdraw due to an injury.
The fact of the matter is still that Jóhannsson is now on crossroads. The next Icelandic national team game is a friendly against Russia on February 6th, and the next competitive game is in March. If Jóhannsson plays those games, it‘s done – his choice will have been made.
Trying to put oneself into his position is quite hard. On one hand, I doubt he feels much more American than I do. On the other hand, he has a chance to become the first Icelandic player to ever play at the World Cup – where the U.S. almost has an automatic entrance.
My question is – should you treat national teams like a club? Many players, such as Eduardo da Silva (Croatia), Pepe (Portugal) have ended up playing for a national team different to their own country, and I guess that is an alright choice.
But isn‘t the pride of wearing the colors of your nation, playing for the people of your country, what this is all about? Isn‘t the national team about that, while your club is more about getting the paycheck or personal glory?
Only Aron Jóhannsson can decide. Whatever his choice, I will respect it, but I sincerely hope he chooses to play for Iceland – his country. Even if he gets picked for the U.S. team, it‘s not 100 percent that he will always get to play. It‘s a risk. Choose wisely, Aron!
Bonus: Watch this video of Aron‘s hat-trick this season, the fastest hat-trick in Denmark‘s history.