Raheem Sterling, Wilfired Zaha and Carl Jenkinson made their England debuts last night in the 4-2 loss to
Ibrahimovic Sweden to commemorate Sweden’s new 50,000 home Stadium, the Friends Arena.
Though England lost the game Hodgson did win the battle to win Carl Jenkinson, Raheem Sterling and Wilfired Zaha from Finland, Jamaica and the Ivory Coast respectively. While that may not seem like a big win, they could well turn out to be as you can look at what England have missed out on with Victor Moses.
In the week leading up to the game, much was talked about Jenkinson and Sterling’s heritage. Sterling’s family had wished for him to represent his birth country, Jamaica, while Jenkinson at one point had declared that he was going to play for Finland. Jenkinson, as you all probably know by now, was eligible to plat for Finland via his mother, and even was capped at youth level by Finland. He did though also play for England at various youth levels also.
I have mixed heritage and if I had been lucky enough to be a footballer and one good enough to be wanted by both England and Italy, there wouldn’t have beenmuch of a choice, as I would have chosen England. For me to represent your country is more important than to just play international football. That is of course if you know you are going to be good enough to play for your main country that is.
I can’t help but think of Chris Birchall when I say that. No disrespect to him, if I was a professional footballer but knew England was not going to come calling only to have Trinidad & Tobago offer me the chance at playing for them I would do the same. Hell, he has been capped nearly 40 times now.
When it comes to players like Moses, Sterling and Jenkinson, I think about how I couldn’t represent a country I didn’t really know much about. I have been born
and bred here and although I am proud of my Italian heritage, I still see myself as English. Jenkinson was raised here, while Moses spent 13 years of hi
s life in Nigeria, and at 21 that means he has lived in England for less time that his home nation. I understand why he would choose Nigeria over England. Although I do wonder if he was called up at the same time who would he have chosen?
Though Wilfired Zaha and Raheem Sterling were not born in England, but born in the Ivory Coast and Jamaica, they both moved to London at a young age. For all intents and purposes’ they have both known England as their home for most of their lives. If they were not as good or as promising as they are then who knows maybe Sterling would have been donning the Yellow and Green of Jamaica and Zaha the Yellow and Green of the Ivory Coast.
If Sterling had have chosen to play for Jamaica then he would have followed in the footsteps of Marlon King, or the likes of Marcus Gayle or Robbie Earle. They, unlike Sterling were born and raised in England but saw their chance at International football and took it, with the latter two helping the Reggae boyz reach their only World Cup in France, 1998.
Diversity and decisions
As the world becomes more multicultural the headache of which country to represent is going to grow. At the last World Cup for the first time we had two brothers face each other for different countries with Jerome Boateng representing Germany while his older brother, Kevin-Prince Boateng, was representing Ghana.
Germany are not new to this phenomenon though, as they have a few Polish born players in this team, most notably Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski and their 2nd ever highest goal scorer, Miroslav Klose. Germany also have a Brazilian in their team, Cacau. Cacau gained citizenship in 2009 and has gone on to make over 20 appearances for Germany. Mesut Özil is a third-generation Turkish-German and has gone on to play for the country that he was born and raised in, while Nuri Şahin who was born in Germany chose to play for Turkey.
In the end it comes down to a personal decision. Emmanuel Frimpong decided to play for Ghana although he represented England at various youth levels. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger was keen on Frimpong to choose England over Ghana, but in the end he chose the country of his birth, over the country he has lived in since moving from Ghana as a child.
I have never really been a fan of a football player being able to play for a country as he has gained citizenship like how Cacau does for Germany or Eduardo for Croatia. If they had moved from a young age I would understand. But just like how Manuel Alumina declared that he would play for England if they ever called him up never sat right with me. Living in a country for a long enough period of time, to me, does not mean you should be able to represent that country.
I am glad that they have chosen England and not their respective countries; although I hope they don’t regret it if their international careers don’t take off as they hope and they end up missing the opportunity of World Cups. That being said, Jenkinson wouldn’t stand much chance with Finland, and Sterling with Jamaica, Zaha with the Ivory Coast though, who knows.