Two U23 footballers turn back on Italy to represent Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, March 31 Italy-based defenders Rodrigo Ely and Maicon have forgone the chance to represent the Italian football team by swearing their allegiance to Brazil. Ely, 21, and Maicon, 22, are the latest Brazilian-born dual nationality holders to be identified by the Brazilian football federation in a bid to stop a talent exodus to other international teams, reports Xinhua.
Centre-back Ely, who plays for Avellino in the Italian Serie B, was called up for Brazil last November, two years after representing Italy's under-20s.
"I have played for Italy but when I was called up for Brazil's Olympic team my heart spoke louder," Ely said on Monday.
Right-back Maicon, also selected by Brazil's under-23 coach Alexandre Gallo last November, plays as a right-back for Livorno, also in Italy's Serie B. He said he has turned down several invitations to play for Italy in a bid to pursue his dream of representing Brazil.
Both Ely and Maicon have lived in Italy since the age of 15.
Among Brazil-born players to have switched nationality in the past decade are Diego Costa (Spain), Thiago Alcantara (Spain), Pepe (Portugal), Thiago Motta (Italy) and Rodrigo (Spain).
On Saturday Gallo called up Belgium-born Manchester United midfielder Andreas Pereira for an Under-20 World Cup warm-up tournament in Austria next month. The 19-year-old, whose parents are both Brazilian, has represented Belgium at Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 level.