FIFA World Cup 2018: 10 superstars who will not be playing for their country of birth
Playing at the FIFA World Cup is a dream come true for most players but only 32 countries can participate in the tournament meaning many players go through their entire career without ever playing at the grandest stage. Some of the game’s all-time greats like Alfredo Di Stefano and Ryan Giggs are examples of such ill-fated men.
In addition to the problem of qualifying, some of the countries have a huge talent pool to choose from and as a result, some players like Leroy Sane of Germany will be left out.
However, FIFA’s eligibility rules give many players a chance to play for a different country if the following criteria from FIFA statute, Article 7 are met.
Any player who assumes a new nationality and who has not played international football [in a match (either in full or in part) in an official competition of any category or any type of football] shall be eligible to play for the new representative team only if he fulfills one of the following conditions:
a) He was born on the territory of the relevant association;
b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant association;
c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant association;
d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.
For example, Munir El Haddadi’s appeal to play for Morocco at the World Cup was denied because he played 13 minutes in a Euro qualifier for Spain.
There are several players at the World Cup who will be playing for a country they were not born in. Many players from Morocco and Portugal for example, were born in a different country. So here are 10 superstars who will not be playing for their country of birth at the 2018 FIFA World Cup:
#10. Hakim Ziyech
Ziyech was born in the Netherlands and played for the Oranje at the U19, U20 and U21 level. He was called up to the senior squad in 2015 by Guus Hiddink after an impressive season with FC Twente. However, he had to pull out of the squad through injury and was later overlooked. A few months later, he chose to play for Morocco as he was eligible to play for them because of his heritage.
The 25-year-old central midfielder has spent his entire professional career in the Netherlands playing for Heerenveen, Twente and Ajax. For the three teams combined, he has 66 goals in 195 games.
The decision to let a talent like Ziyech slip through the hands was not met well by the Dutch media but the player will be happy as he will now be playing at the World Cup which the Netherlands failed to qualify for.
Ziyech, who is a set-piece specialist, now has 15 caps for Morocco and has scored 8 goals for the team already.