Wilshere ignites heated debate
The influence of “foreigners” in English football hit the headlines this week as Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere suggested only “English” players should be allowed to play for England.
A study by the BBC – called State of the Game – showed that players from outside Britain and Ireland have played almost two thirds of minutes for Premier League teams so far this season.
The Football Association has long been concerned about home-grown players not getting enough time on the pitch at the top level, and the influence it has on the national team.
Wilshere provoked a strong response when he suggested that England’s team should be for English players, saying those who come to the country “as an adult” should not qualify to play for England.
The midfielder’s comments drew the attention of England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, who tweeted: “Interested to know how you define foreigner…?
“Would that include me, (Andrew) Strauss, (Jonathan] Trott, (Matt) Prior, (Justin) Rose, (Chris) Froome, Mo Farah?”
Wilshere later clarified his comments, saying that he never mentioned the word “foreigner.”
But the comments were timely after rumours the FA were looking into the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United midfielder Adnan Januzaj being eligible to play for England.
Januzaj has Albanian and Kosovan parents and was born in Belgium but has not committed himself to any country yet, and never played youth football at international level.
Wilshere’s comments were backed up by his Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who said the definition of “English” was at the heart of the debate.
“I personally believe what we have really to define is what is an English player and we get that more and more,” the BBC quoted Wenger as saying.
“I have young players now with three different nationalities and I ask them how do you feel?
“You have some, for example, who were born in Africa, they have come to Europe, they have lived for a few years in one country and, after, their parents have moved to another country because they had to find work – and they have three different cultures.
“One of the tasks of the modern politicians will be really to define what is the nationality of a person, because some people feel differently to their passport.
“Have they the freedom of choice or do they have to be educated in a country to feel they love this country? Have you to spend a certain number of years in the country to say you represent this country?
“I agree with him. I always said also an Englishman should manage the England team.”