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Capello and The FA Need to Give Mikel Arteta A Chance to Play For England

To read quotes from some of the experts in England, it’s almost as if the thought of Mikel Arteta playing for England would be tantamount to a German player being selected by the Three Lions during the Second World War. Well, perhaps not quite that much, but the negative reaction to the prospect of Arteta playing for England is mind boggling.

England World Cup star George Cohen said this regarding Arteta:

“More and more players in his category, which is to say good but not good enough for countries like Spain and France, Italy and Germany, would qualify through residency, and where would that leave the home-grown product? Suffering even more neglect than he does now.”

Henry Winter of The Telegraph is also against the idea:

“It would be another dispiriting lurch into the heart of darkness for the national team if Capello did summon a player who now qualifies under residency rules.”

And Roy Keane, Ipswich Town manager, has so much disdain for the idea that you can see it on his face in the above video.

No disrespect to Winter, Keane or Cohen, but the world has moved on and countries such as Germany are taking advantage of residency rules to pluck players from different nations and to improve their teams. England, with people thinking this way, are stuck in a stone age. It’s not about players singing a national anthem as Keane mentions. Most of the England players don’t sing their national anthem anyway. It’s about winning football matches and trophies. And in order to do that, the Football Association needs to be forward-thinking enough to allow Arteta (and other eligible foreign players) to play for England (with the understanding that the national team manager needs to pick the player).

I disagree with Cohen’s sentiment that home-grown product would be neglected. Soccer is survival of the fittest. So if English footballers have competition for their spots on the national team, that’s a good thing. If it means that Gerrard and/or Lampard have to work harder to earn their places on the England national team because Arteta is trying to get on the team, that’s a positive move forward.

I hope that Capello takes Arteta’s interest in playing for England seriously and gives this technically gifted Spanish midfielder a chance to shine for England. All I see are positives. There are no negatives. Capello and the Football Association needs to give Arteta a chance.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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30 Responses to Capello and The FA Need to Give Mikel Arteta A Chance to Play For England

  1. patrick says:

    To be totally intellectually honest about it, Arteta is not English. By that I mean he didn’t seek refuge in England, he was offered employment. And while many countries seem fine with welcoming their professional citizens, big countries like England have only welcomed those who family raised them as English in England.

    I think it opens up a gross can of worms in which yo seek the best uncapped players to come to England get citizenship then play for the national team. And if that is the case, just give me Champions League football, cause the World Cup would have become meaningless.

    • Dave C says:

      Given that it takes five years of residency to obtain British citizenship (I believe), I doubt any uncapped players will move here on the off-chance that in five years time they might get a chance at selection to the England squad.

  2. nick says:

    My God Gaffer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you say such stupid things sometimes………

  3. Peter says:

    Eduardo – Brazilian but plays for Croatia. Deco – Brazilian but plays for Portugal.
    Antar Yahia – French but plays for Algeria. Lukas Podolski & Miroslav Klose were both born in Poland but play for Germany which is the worst thing you can do in Poland. The point I’m making is that plenty of players were born in one country, move to another for club football and decide to play for them nationally, if they haven’t already played. 90% of the Algerian team at the world cup was born in france & the best french player ever, Zidane, was born nin Algeria. Also, Aiden McGeady decided to play for Ireland despite being Scottish. Big deal, its happened loads of times.

    • patrick says:

      It may happen loads of times but aside from Eduardo, all those names you list have ties to the country they play for. The problem I have is you lose a sense of nation if you just recruit players with no real ties to country.

      And for the record, Podolski and Klose are from Silesia. An area that has been held by many countries over the years. Where ethnic Silesians and Germans and Polish live. Most Silesians decide to play for Germany.

      • Peter says:

        Thanks Patrick for the feedback. Interestingly I checked out where Podolski & Klose are from Silesia where both Polish and Germans live. You are right about the ties to a country as even Eduardo lived in Croatia for a fair few years, the point is surely Arteta has ties as well. It may not be family ties but he has lived here for 10 years. However since he has played for Spain’s U-16′s, U-17′s & their U-21′s you would think he won’t be allowed to play.

  4. Call me old fasioned but I think you should play for the country you love, the country you dreamed about playing for as a child. I can’t imagine that Arteta would have grown up wanting to play for England. I like Arteta, I think he is a good player but I just don’t like the can of worms this would open up. Plus from a football point of view, the guy is about 29/30 and doesn’t have too many years left playing at the top level anyway. He would be playing in a position that young Wilshire, or Milner could play, do we really need to bring in a 30 yr old spaniard, someone who will be 32 by the time the Euro’s come around? I don’t think so.
    P.S just because Germany does it, it doesn’t make it right. In fact it only makes me think less of their achievments. Do it with your own players or don’t do it at all.

    • Dave C says:

      In the case of the German squad, most of their so-called “foreign” players have lived in Germany since a very young age, so I think you have to consider them genuinely German. They might well have grown up dreaming of playing for Germany. It’s not like they’ve moved over at the age of 20+ and THEN decided to apply for German eligibility.

      Also, (and this isn’t addressed at you, Pokerback, just a general point):
      What people often miss when they talk about the German team is that some of the “non-german looking players” (i.e. ethnic minorities) are actually born and bred in Germany. In previous years, they would not have been able to play for Germany, because Germany had extremely strict rules about who could be a citizen (both of your parents had to be citizens already, if I remember correctly). These laws were changed relatively recently, which is why you now see some ethnic minorities playing for Germany, whereas in the 80′s/90′s, you did not.

  5. I don’t understand the whole backlash to it, it’s like people don’t want to admit that there are loads of better players out there that than English guys.

    So everyone is happy that we have a non-English manager but won’t let non-English players in the side? I think Capello should just do it, if there is backlash they’ll soon realise that they have a good player in the team.

    • Simon Burke says:

      Not everyone is happy the manager isnt English though….
      I personally dont mind but a lot of people do. I’d prefer the players though to remain English.

  6. Another thing, he plays in the same position as Paul Scholes, and basically isn’t as good as Paul Scholes, Capello would be better spending his time trying to convince Scholes to come back for a year or two than wasting his time with a spanish player that isn’t as good as someone who is English

    • Dave C says:

      Scholes is like 50 yrs old. There’s a lot of persistent rumours that Fergie wants/wanted Arteta to be Scholes’ replacement, so I don’t think it’s entirely certain that Scholes is necessarily better.

      • Scholes is 34/35 and is playing some of the best stuff in his life, He is week in week out the best player for united and way better than Arteta.

        • Dave C says:

          Ok, I was being a bit facetious about him being 50 ;)
          But he IS old… he may be playing well in the first couple of weeks of the season, but I’m sure he’s not gonna be playing week-in, week-out. And he almost definitely won’t be capable of playing at Euro 2012 or the next WC.

  7. Scott Alexander says:

    I think Poker Rakeback raises a good point concerning his age although I think he’d be 30 at the Euros and 32 at the next world cup. Which are fine ages to play but ideally, you’d like the concentration to be on getting younger players a chance to develop their games at the international stage. On the other hand, having a player who had some experience in Spain and France would likely do wonders to the overall quality of England’s football team as opposed to the special suicide pact of playing with only players who play domestic football.

  8. David Moyes says:

    Follow, Follow, Follow,
    Everton is the team to follow,
    Cuz there’s nobody better,
    Than Mikel Arteta,
    He’s the best little Spaniard/Englishman we know…

  9. Connjam says:

    Don’t really see the problem, look at…
    John barnes, born in Jamaica
    Terry butcher, Singapore
    Owen Hargreaves, Canada and raised in Germany
    Zidane, Algeria
    Most of French squad African who won the wc and euros
    Dutch team, neither gullit, seedorf, winter, rijkaard are Dutch born
    Germany, ozil, klose, podolski, and more
    Portugal, deco brazillian
    Croatia, Eduardo brazillian
    Spain, senna brazillian
    Seems it happens everywhere except snobby England because we’re too good to play non nationals yet all the teams who have have won honours and I don’t think it’s a coincidence

    • Dave C says:

      Two counter-points to what you said:
      (1) Firstly, I don’t think anyone in charge of the FA thinks England are “too good” to play non-nationals. I don’t think it’s snobbery, just a sense of fair-play and doing things in the right spirit. Other countries might do it, but if the FA feel it’s just not the right thing to do, then I can kind of feel proud of that. I think English culture in general has a deep sense of fair-play, and the idea of just picking guys who make no claim to be “really” English really doesn’t sit well with that concept.

      (2) A lot of your examples aren’t really analogous:
      Eg John Barnes may have been abroad, but he moved to England (for non-footballing reasons) at a fairly early age (likewise for many of your Dutch & French examples).

      Terry Butcher was born to British parents who just happened to be abroad at the time of his birth, and was brought up in England.

      Hargreaves was born abroad but had (at least) one British parent. He may never have lived here for any significant time, but I think he had good grounds to consider himself English.

      Also, a lot of the Dutch players you mention may have been born in Surinam, Guyana etc, but these are actually still part of the Netherlands (in the same manner that Hawaii is a part of the US). That’s why Surinam, Guyana etc are not members of FIFA in their own right. I believe the same is also true for some of the French players too (eg Henry born in Guadaloupe).

      I think in all of these cases, these people have a genuine claim to be “truly English” (or Dutch/French) respectively, and would probably do so even without the carrot of International Football.

      Mikel Arteta, on the other hand, was born and bred in Spain, didn’t move to England until he was already a 20-something professional footballer, and I doubt he considers himself English.

      And I think THAT is what I believe the FA (in my first point) consider to be a fair criteria for selection.

      • Tom Hingley says:

        What this guy said.

        Those in favour (or criticising the English for being against it) are throwing out completely false examples.

        Arteta has no link to England, unlike all the other players listed.

        If we start to pick foreigners, you blur the distinction with club football.

  10. Simon Burke says:

    I am against this – the fact we are entertaining it shows how desperate we feel the situation is in England.
    Arteta is clearly Spanish and if given the opportunity would jump at the chance to play for Spain. He has 25 appearances for the U-21 and U-18 Spain sides.

    I know the residency rules have changed but it doesn’t mean we should embrace them. Living in a country where you happen to get paid for 5 years is not the same as caring for a country and growing up supporting it. I know other countries take advantage of this but I’d like to think England will take the high ground (alright the middle ground , there was Hargreaves though at least he had a connection).

    To me club football and international football have always been very separate and this is starting to blur the lines a little and not in a good way for me. I’d like to see FIFA tighten this up, if you play at youth level for a country that’s your country that you represent at all levels.

    In truth I’d rather lose but lose fairly than win by naturalising some fringe Brazilans and Spanish players. Arteta incidentally would walk into the England team on talent and certainly improve us but ultimately he is Spanish and would prefer to play for Spain.

    • Dave C says:

      “I know other countries take advantage of this but I’d like to think England will take the high ground…In truth I’d rather lose but lose fairly than win by naturalising some fringe Brazilans and Spanish players”

      THIS is exactly what I was talking about in my post above. I think it’s all about the English FA having some sense of fair-play, rather than a “win at all costs” approach.

  11. Gary says:

    I’m no nationalist and I’m not English and I have no real problem with players deciding to play for a country other than that of their birth.
    That being said, I do think it would be a mistake for Arteta to be selected for the England squad. If Arteta were the final piece of the puzzle in a national squad that had good youth development and a cohesive starting 11 that didn’t take the form of an EPL all-star squad I would say Great! Go for it! That is not the case in England. Arteta would be another all-star in a team with no cohesion.
    Also there is no historical (i.e. colonial) connection b/w England and Spain, making the move even more arbitrary and desperate than it already seems.
    So, there’s nothing wrong w/ the move per se; I simply feel it would be a detriment to an already precariously balanced English team. Let the youth run out for the next two years, blend them with the first-team players who are still going to have a meaningful role in the next two tournaments, you know, the things that most successful national programs do to develop their squads.
    If there’s still a place for Arteta after the real work of building a team has been done (it hasn’t even begun) then he should be welcomed with open arms, but not before.

  12. GhostDog71 says:

    Spain’s national anthem doesn’t have any words – that is why nobody sings when it is played. Efan Ekoku made the same mistake during the World Cup, hinting that it was related to some sort of Catalonian dissent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_National_Anthem

  13. bluesbro says:

    OK lets all get xenophobic and stick out our stiff upper lips about Mikel bloody hypocrites are happy to have an italian manager though. But the reality is that we can carry on as we are i.e. believing our own hype only to get a reality check when the big game comes around and yawn yawn once again our inadequacies are exposed. English sport will always be second rate whilst we cling to the elitist old boy network that pervades our ruling bodies and where managers are picked on the basis of being of the right sort that wont rock the boat. Forget revolution – we are still waiting for the dinosaurs age to end.

    • Dave C says:

      I don’t think there’s anything xenophobic about being opposed to Arteta playing for England, and I don’t think it has anything to do with “believing our own hype” (most people agree that Arteta would be good for the England team if he were picked).

  14. Smokey Bacon says:

    This train left the station when they appointed a foreign coach. I see nothing wrong with Arteta being selected. It’s a global game these days and residency is a fair enough qualification in my opinion. We allow it in other sports e.g. cricket and rugby so why not football? And as for Arteta not being good enough for Spain? He is well good enough, it’s just there are several players ahead of him in the queue. If he is interested in playing for England then he should be there on merit as one of the best midfielders in the country. Like most immigrants, I’d suspect he would be extra motivated to perform for his new country, more so than the entitled incumbents. Get him in the team now before he does the unthinkable and decides to play for Scotland!

  15. Henry says:

    He can’t be called up because he didn’t have a english visa when he represnted spain or something. Anyway, they should call up Wilshere and Rodwell instead.

  16. Rob says:

    If Arteta actually does play for England. He would be doing so while being a BRITISH CITIZEN. He’s actually spent seven and a half years in total in the UK. Five and a half of them in England. And that’s five and half years more than Canadian born Owen Hargreaves, when he was first capped by England. Oh, and he would be playing for England while QUALIFYING to play for England. If this was 20 years ago, maybe I’d care. But football and the world in general has changed. Looks like other people haven’t moved on yet. (well only when it suits them though.)

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