Historically, it was possible for players to play for different national teams. However, since 2004, FIFA have made a series of significant changes to the rulings determining international eligibility. The new set of rules are more strict and sets additional requirements while determining which country a player may represent.
Though it has been permitted that a player may represent one country at youth international level and another at senior international level, there is a further requirement that such a player must apply for the same before their 21st birthday.
In addition, any player who has not played international football before shall be allowed to represent either the country of his birth, the country of birth of his biological parents and grandparents or even the country where he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18.
It is a general tendency of players to favour representing the countries of their migration rather than the countries of origin. There isn’t a more significant example of this case in view than the French national team.
As many as 9 players from Didier Deschamps’ current squad have African connections and could have go on to represent another country at international events:
#1 Patrice Evra – Senegal
Patrice Evra was born in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, to a father of Guinean descent and a Cape Verdean mother as one of a total of 25 children. A diplomat by profession, Evra’s father decided on a move to Brussels in order to work at the Senegalese embassy in Brussels at a time when Evra was just twelve months old.
Two years after living in Belgium, when Evra was three, the family moved to France and settled in Les Ulis located near the south-western suburbs of Paris.
Raised on Senegalese culture and values, aged 10, Evra returned to Senegal for a short period of time. But describing his return as ‘not a good experience’, primarily because he had ventured back to undergo circumcision, Evra has never travelled back to the country of his origin again.
Due to his decision of opting to represent France as an international, the veteran defender has also often been subject to racial abuse from the supporters of the Senegalese national team.
Starting his career in Ligue 2, the second division of French football, Evra rose to prominence as Manchester United came calling. With 5 Premier Leagues and a Champions League title, Evra remained a mainstay in the United back-four under Sir Alex Ferguson, spending nearly 8 years at Old Trafford before he moved on to Juventus.
Having been described a perfect example of a modern day full-back, Evra remains an integral part of Didier Deschamps’ France setup, clocking the full 90 minutes in each of France’s Euro 2016 game so far.