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Arsenal Youngster Gedion Zelalem Becomes U.S. Citizen, Paves Way to USMNT Selection

Gedion Zelalem

Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem reportedly flew from London to Washington D.C. on Monday to finalize paperwork to officially become a United States citizen.  It is thought that the 17-year-old prospect has proclaimed his intentions to play for the United States Men’s National Team by becoming a U.S. citizen.

The German-born player has Ethiopian heritage and grew up in America, therefore is eligible to play for any of these three country’s national teams.  While Zelalem has featured for the Germany’s U-15, U-16 and U-17 squads within the last few years, current U.S. national team manager Jürgen Klinsmann has been keen on the youngster representing the United States.

In a 2011 interview with the Washington Post, Gedion’s father told the newspaper, “It’s a possibility to play for the U.S. in the future.  He likes the way Klinsmann is doing things. He is very happy to go to camp again. We’ll see what happens.”

Ethiopian’s former national team head coach Sewnet Bishaw has also previously proclaimed his affection for the player. Bishaw spoke with Reuters last year on the possibility of having Zelalem with the Ethiopian national team, “If he decides to play for Ethiopia and asks us, then things will be easy.”

Admiration for Zelalem has been flowing in for years now and the youngster has been labeled as one of Arsenal’s top prospects.  Olney Rangers (Zelalem’s former youth club in America) manager Matt Pilkington has made some interesting comparisons between Zelalem and two Barcelona superstars.  Pilkington has stated, “He dribbles like Iniesta and he passes like Xavi.  I’ve thought like that for the past few years but I’ve been wary about saying it.  I don’t worry now.”

Former Arsenal phenom and current first-team star Jack Wilshere has also praised Zelalem.  Wilshere, an England international, said of Zelalem, “It won’t be long before he’s ready.  He’s so comfortable on the ball.  Even in training he’s a nightmare to play against. He keeps the ball away from you and shields it.  He’s not very big but he’s strong.  He drifts in and out of players.  He’s quite a strong lad and technically he’s right up there.  He’s a good one for the future.”

Zelalem has only made two senior appearances with Arsenal to date (an FA Cup match against Coventry City last season and a Champions League game against Galatasaray a few weeks ago).  Earlier in the year, the 17-year-old signed his first professional contract with the north London club, keeping him with the Gunners until 2017.

With Zelalem now eligible for the USMNT, the 17-year-old will certainly automatically become one of the top prospects (if not the number one prospect) in youth soccer in America.  Klinsmann will first get the chance to select Zelalem in March, when the Americans are set to play both Denmark and Switzerland in international friendlies.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Cody

    December 30, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Something that hasn’t been address in any of these reports is what becomes of his EU work permit after gaining US citizenship. If I recall correctly, you can’t just retain a work permit if you declare US citizenship. And wasn’t this one of the major stepping stones a year ago when this came up? At the time it was suspected he would have to give up his work permit and be disqualified to play for Arsenal until he could re-acquire it under US citizenship.

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