At the 2022 World Cup, Qatar may take the lead in a debate about the legitimacy of foreign-born players representing the country. In 2015, the Qatari national men’s team played a friendly match against Algeria where six out of eleven players on the pitch were foreign born. In 2019, Qatar won the Asian Cup. However, the semi-finalist, the UAE, lodged a complaint that star player Almoez Ali and defender Bassam al-Rawi were not eligible to play. What is at stake?
Gijsbert Oonk - endowed professor Europe in Globalizing World and founding director of the Sport and Nation network - questions in his new blog what is wrong with the representation of football players with limited ties to the country they represent.
"According to current FIFA regulations, national team players need to hold citizenship of the country they represent. In cases of dual citizenship, players have to choose one country to represent. Until recently, if players with dual nationality played one official match in the national team of a country, they could not change alliances. This changed in 2020 because FIFA noted that young players with dual nationality should not be forced to make an immediate choice to play for a nation at an early stage of their careers."
Oonk encourages FIFA to create more flexible eligibility rules for players and national teams in his new blog. This would enable countries like Qatar to compete at a higher level and therefore create more interest in football at a grassroots level as well. This in itself could become part of national identity.
Read the entire blog here.