Flag of convenience

news: Flag of convenience

OF THE 27 nations already qualified for the World Cup finals, 14 rely on players born elsewhere, adding to the international mosaic of the modern game. England’s Owen Hargreaves is Canadian, plays in Germany and has Welsh ancestry. Portugal’s midfield maestro, Deco, is Brazilian, while Italy’s Camoranesi hails from Argentina. France makes ample use of its former colonies, picking the best for its national side. The current crop includes Thuram (Guadalupe), Boumsong (Cameron), Vieira (Senegal) and Makelele(Congo).

The US has added firepower to its team with the naturalisation of Ghana’s Adu, Argentina’s Mastroeni, Gutierrez from Colombia and the Jamaican Cunningham. Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro swap players liberally, the former also snapping up émigrés from Australia and Germany. The hosts have an entirely foreign front line in Asamoah (Ghana), Kuranyi (Brazil), Podolski and Klose (both Polish). Holland has its Surinamese contingent, Sweden a Frenchman in Linderoth, Mexico and Paraguay both have Argentineans. Perhaps most exotic in this potpourri are Alessandro, Clayton and Dos Santos, Brazilians who line up for Tunisia and Japan!

On the touchline things don’t look very different, with 10 coaches facing the possibility of confronting their country of origin. Portugal’s Luis Felipe Scotari will not want to draw Brazil, nor will Costa Rica’s Guimarães. Mexico’s Lavolpe and Saudi Arabia’s Calderon are both Argentineans, while the Ivory Coast’s Michel will hope to avoid his native France. The Serbian Dujkovic manages Ghana, the Croat Ivankovic Iran, and the Nigerian Keshi is in charge of Togo. If Equador beat Columbia, coach Suarez may have reason to fear for his life, a player was shot dead there for merely scoring an own goal – while South Korea’s Dick Advocaat will be less worried about his Dutch compatriots.

The practice of ‘borrowing’ other country’s players has a long history. Already in 1943 Italy won the World Cup with a team containing four Argentineans, and Eusebio was the principle reason Portugal excelled in 1966. The top scorer of all time in the finals, Just Fontaine was born in Morocco, whilst his France claimed the trophy in 1998 with the help of the stars from Senegal, Ghana, Guadeloupe and New Caledonia.