Wednesday, February 09, 2011

When Green Jerseys Are Worn

On international Wednesday a look at the often controversial question of international eligibility.

A guest blog from Zoe Broome exploring the reasons and emotions that might be involved in making a decision about which country to play for.

A tricky one this, with the eligibility rules never quite fully satisfying. Let us know your thoughts:

With Gary Hooper recently rumoured to be eligible for the Scotland squad, the discussion of whether players who are eligible to play for a country they were not born in should do so or not has again dominated conversations. This article will look at the discussion, especially in terms of the Irish Diaspora.

As Ireland has often been a country which a lot of people emigrated from, there have over the years been a lot of eligible players born elsewhere. And a lot of these players have opted to play for Ireland. This was especially the case under Charlton but even today there continue to be players such as McCarthy and McGeady who are foreign born and play for Ireland. Whilst Aiden McGeady has opted to play for Ireland, England international Wayne Rooney has not.

McGeady qualifies through both paternal grandparents to play for Ireland and he chose to do so after a brief spell in his youth career as a Scotland player. Whilst this has made him unpopular with some off the pitch: a mild example of this being that some Scots regard him as a “traitor”, on the pitch McGeady plays as well for Ireland as he once did for Celtic. This could be seen as an argument that, in spite of McGeady being born in Scotland, he feels patriotic about Ireland and he is willing to try hard to be a success for his grandparents’ country.

Rooney instead chose to play for England. Whilst he has been a successful player for England and has perhaps achieved more than he would not have done for Ireland, there was a feeling at the 2010 world cup among some England fans and commentators that he did not play as well for England as he does for Manchester United. Most of these critics cited wages as being the problem, and certainly the EPL does play its players very high wages. But another problem may be a lack of passion. Often Rooney does not, for example, sing the English national anthem.

If Rooney was raised in a community which had more in common with those in Ireland than with the average non-Diaspora community in England, and one which prided itself on being Evertonian with Irish roots rather than on its Englishness, English patriotism might not come naturally from his upbringing. And, there are certain ways in which a sense of Englishness would clash with a sense of Irishness: for example, pride in the British Empire. This would make it difficult for him to feel any sense of English patriotism which could help him to try hard for England.

What Hooper should do depends, then, on how he was raised. If he was raised in a family which regarded itself primarily as English: as is likely considering his grandfather was from the Scottish Borders but born in Berwick and the only possibly non-English member of the family, then he will probably try hardest and play best for England. However, if he was raised with any sense of Scottishness (especially Scottish nationalism) then the England squad and certain elements of England’s support may feel jingoistic to him, and put him off. If this is the case, it is best he opts for Scotland where he can take pride in his efforts for the country and try his hard to be a success.

> Thanks to Zoe who can be found on Twitter @zbwriter

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