African nations set to reap benefit of FIFA's nationality-rule changes
African countries are looking to profit from another change to the FIFA statutes, one which has further eased restrictions on players seeking to switch footballing nationality. The age limit at which players had to make a choice has been removed, letting a handful of players claim a new international career.
The vast majority of those to benefit will be players born in Europe, but of African descent, whose skills will now be available to national sides across Africa. The first five players to benefit did so during the round of international fixtures in August, just after the expiration of the 60-day hiatus before the law could take effect.
All were former France youth internationals who had not gone on to play for
Since 2003, players capped at junior level had been allowed to switch countries, but only if they are entitled to dual nationality, had made no international appearances and were under 21. But Tottenham Hotspur's
The desire to have Meghni play for Algeria was the catalyst for the change and it was the North African country which brought the proposal for dropping the age limit to the 2009 FIFA Congress in Bahamas. Despite some strong opposition, they saw it passed.
"We didn't think it was fair that players [of African origin] were being selected for junior teams of European countries and then never getting a chance to play at full international level," explains Algeria FA chief
"Having these players is a huge benefit for us and many other African teams. Since 2003, we have had access to many quality players who have vastly improved our team. It improves the African game as a whole."
Algeria now hopes to add Benfica's
But Bassong's selection for Cameroon could ironically abruptly end the distinguished career of the country's iconic captain,
Paris-born Moussilou was man of the match as Congo drew away to Morocco, while Aubey was also in the side, and 31-year-old Guingamp midfielder
Morocco will now try to persuade several players to join. These include German-born striker
Nigeria could also sound out Manchester City's
Ideally, says Raouraoua, there should be a further change to the statutes to allow players to switch allegiance even if they have played at full international level but have then not been capped again for more than three years. The Algerians cite the case of Monaco midfielder
Such a change would open the door for other ex-France internationals such as Wigan's
However, Raouraoua reckons it is unlikely, admitting: "I don't think FIFA would want to contemplate a situation where a footballer appears at a World Cup finals for one country and then returns in the colors of another."