Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sepp Blatter: Eligibility issue sorted

FIFA President Sepp Blatter seems to have finally 'Put To Bed' any prospect of the Football authorities in the North blocking prospective young international footballers from the North of Ireland, from representing Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland on the international stage.

President Blatter, who was in Newcastle, County Down for an International Football Association board meeting, was unequivocal in his belief that players from the North are clearly eligible to play for Ireland and he backed the FAI’s stance that it is working within FIFA’s rules when selecting players from throughout the Island of Ireland and he stated yesterday “ We will propose that any player born in the North can play for the South too”

Blatter revealed that FIFA’s legal committee will inform the board later this month that any player born on the island of Ireland will continue to be free to represent Ireland at international level.

As revealed by Blatter yesterday:

“As the Legal Committee understands it, the situation is such that all Northern Irish footballers could opt to play for both teams, given that they have a birthright to an Irish passport. Evidently, the same is not applicable to the footballers of the Republic, who do not have such a claim”.

The whole saga has reached farcical proportions at times during the last number of years with the North’s international manager Nigel Worthington personally ringing players and basically offering senior caps if players returned to play for his team.

The IFA are likely to react with anger over FIFA’s decision, even though they have consistently failed to acknowledge, and ignore the fact that, for a large proportion of football supporters in the North, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland always have, and always will be their No.1 international choice.

The natural knock-on effect of this support is that young prospective internationals growing up in the North, will want to play for the team who they have grown up supporting and following, as was the case For Co. Antrim Ireland u21 international Marc Wilson.

The hypocrisy of the IFA stance on eligibility is best represented by their German born goalkeeper Maik Taylor, who despite have no parental or grandparent linkage to the team, has represented the North on over seventy occasions during the last ten years.

And in more recent times the North’s Under 21 manager Steve Beaglenhole has spoken of his confidence in attracting England under 19 internationals Chris Stokes and Oliver Norwood into his set-up.

This is clearly a common sense decision from FIFA and will further solidify the link between Trapattoni’s Ireland and a large section of the footballing public North of the border.

The last word is best left to Portsmouth’s County Antrim born midfielder Marc Wilson, who said in a recent article "I think everybody has their own personal reasons for wanting to play for the Republic or the North. I grew up supporting the Republic so it was a comfortable decision for me."

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