Amidst the controversy that surrounds FIFAs decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in the winter, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about some of FIFAs policies. In particular FIFA’s nationality policies became of particular interest to me.
Article 7 of the FIFA Statutes (the Regulations Governing the Application of Statutes) is quite relevant in this case. It notes that a player who plays for a continuous period over five years after reaching the age of 18 in the territory of relevant national association can play for that national association in international football providing that they haven’t played for an official competition match for another national state.
This clause provides an opportunity for players who have created new homes for themselves in countries other than the one that they were born in. While this can be a blessing for some players who feel that they have made new homes for themselves, or have grown up in a country other than the one they were born in. Some may view it as an unfair way to shift players away from the countries they should be playing for, as many of the best players in the world come to play in Europe and could be eligible to play for countries with big soccer leagues in England, Spain, or Germany under these rules.
In terms of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar there is also a growing concern that Qatar may try to leverage this clause to gain players for its World Cup team as a player who begins playing professionally in Qatar in 2017 could feasibly qualify for their World Cup team, the concern being that Qatar could lure in players who may not otherwise be good enough to play in a World Cup, giving Qatar the chance to acquire better players, and giving some players the opportunity to play in the World Cup.
Several of the most famous nation-switching soccer players are listed in this article by Bleacher Report.