Beijing (AFP) – A London-born former England youth international signed for Beijing Guoan on Thursday and will take Chinese citizenship, in a landmark move for Chinese football.
Ex-Arsenal player Nico Yennaris arrived from English second-tier side Brentford and was joined at Guoan by fellow midfielder John Hou Saeter, who was born in Norway.
The duo — both of whom have Chinese mothers — are set to become China’s first naturalised footballers “after all the formalities are completed”, Guoan said.
The capital club, who won last season’s Chinese FA Cup under German coach Roger Schmidt, said they hope the two players will go on to represent China.
The 25-year-old Yennaris, who has taken the Chinese name Li Ke, tweeted: “I’m delighted to announce I’ve signed for Beijing Sinobo Guoan FC as a Chinese citizen.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for me to play in the birth country of my mother and grandparents.”
Saeter, 21, who will use his Chinese name Hou Yongyong, moves from Stabaek in Norway’s top league.
By naturalising both men, Guoan can field them as domestic players instead of overseas ones.
Chinese Super League teams are restricted to a maximum of three foreign players on the pitch at the same time.
The pair’s switch to Chinese could also be a boon to the struggling national side, who badly need quality reinforcements.
Yennaris has represented England at under-17, under-18 and under-19, and Saeter played for Norway in several age groups.
However, that would not stop them playing for China because they did not represent the countries of their birth as senior internationals.