Which country can Januzaj play for?
At the moment, Adnan Januzaj has the world at his feet. After an impressive performance, which included two goals, in the game against Sunderland, the man from Brussels, certainly announced himself to the world. Having seen what he is capable of, every tom, dick and harry is queuing up for his signature. And it is not just clubs, who are clamoring for him, but countries as well.
Januzaj was born in Brussels to Kosovan-Albanian parents and has been playing in England since 2011. All of which, means that Januzaj can take his pick from as much as five countries, in Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Belgium and England, and then chose to represent them in the international level. So, let us look at who he is likely to represent and how each of the five countries stand, with respect to the whole Januzaj situation.
The most obvious option seems to be Belgium. After all, he was born in Brussels and played for Anderlecht’s youth teams for six years, from 2005 before his move to Manchester United. But everything isn’t as it seems. At least, not with whole Januzaj situation as the Belgian national coach Marc Wilmots was recently made aware of the fact that Januzaj hasn’t made a decision to play for a national team yet.
What makes matters even worse for Belgium, is the fact that Januzaj hasn’t played for Belgium at all, not even at the U-18 and U-19 level. And, according to former coach, Marc Van Geersom, his refusal to be called up was because he would rather play for Albania. But Wilmots hasn’t given up hope yet. All along, he has given a clear signal that he wants the youngster to play for Belgium whilst maintaining that he hasn’t asked Fellaini to persuade the teenage sensation.
Regarding speaking to Januzaj on his international future, Wilmots said “I will soon do it and it is up to him to decide.” And whatever Januzaj says, Wilmots added “I will respect his choice.”
The refusal to play for Belgium so far, certainly gives Albania an upper hand and it looks like they are the most likely team that Januzaj might end up playing for. The Albanian federation is certainly aware of this and their head coach Gianni De Biasi only stated the bleeding obvious, when he declared on 12 August 2013 that Januzaj is a “great talent”.
De Biasi also went onto add that both he and the Albanian federation are just biding their time and just waiting for the opportune moment to go ahead and talk to the talented teenager about representing the Albanian national side. Former Belgian goalkeeper Nico Vaesen said that his father is a big influence on the youngster and, “It will be his father who has a big say on what country Adnan will end up playing for.” And the fact that he is Albanian, might just swing the tide in favor of Albania.
Such is the dearth of attacking quality in England at the moment that, manager Roy Hodgson stated that the Football Association were keeping a keen eye on the player and might even call him up in the future. David Moyes has already revealed that the FA have been in touch with him over Januzaj, but it is not as straight forward as it might seem.
FIFA rules state that for a player to represent a national side, he must either be a passport-carrying citizen of a country, be born in a country, or have his parents or grandparents born there and not have played competitively for any other national team. However, there is a special clause, article 7d, which states that a player must have played in that particular country for ‘five years after the age of 18′ for him to appear for the national side.
Unfortunately for England, the Home nations agreement makes this all the more impossible. Under the Home nations agreement, for a player to play for a particular home nation, he has to have at least a minimum of five years education under the age of 18 within the territory of the relevant association and do not offer national team eligibility through residency. And the only way in which, he could play is if the FA chose to tear up the gentlemen’s agreement and he continues to play in England, apply for a British passport and doesn’t play competitively for any other country in the meantime.
Even if all of these conditions are fulfilled, the earliest Januzaj could turn out for England would be the 2018 World Cup. And it only makes you wonder, why, he would choose to play for England, when he could play for a Belgium squad that is brimming with talent.
Whilst he can represent Belgium through birth and Albania through his father’s heritage, the situation with Kosovo is certainly very complicated. The fact that Kosovo are not an FIFA-affiliated team means that the youngster will be unable to play competitive matches. But, as Kosovo have a FIFA-sanctioned youth teams, he can play friendlies and exhibition matches.
The Football Federation of Kosovo are well aware of the current situation and have said that they will respect Januzaj’s right to choose which country he plays for. They admitted that it was not fair, to expect a player to represent a nation that cannot play yet competitive football, so, his chances of him playing for them seems slim.
Another curious case, is that of Serbia. The disputed status of Kosovo means that Januzaj can represent Serbia if he chooses to. But the likelihood of him choosing Serbia over his country of birth and the country of his father’s birth seems really unlikely.
The Serbian football federation have remained tight lipped about this whole situation, knowing fully well that they don’t stand too much of a chance. But, if Adnan was to choose to play for Serbia, they would certainly welcome him with open hands. And although it is possible that he might play for Serbia, it isn’t very probable.Published 08 Oct 2013, 18:30 IST