Representing one’s country on the international stage has long been reported as the pinnacle of a footballer’s ambition. In present times, the development of international club competitions has challenged that notion. For fans of the English national representative team, the FIFA World Cup 2018 was a fantastic event, capturing mass national support for international football, as the Three Lions’ fourth place heroics restored national pride in the country’s ability at national representative level, whilst also uniting the nation during a period of political uncertainty.
The subject of international football, like any other international team sport, brings into play the issue of national team eligibility, with international stars such Diego Costa, Wilfried Zaha and the Boateng brothers (to name a few) considering the rules issued by FIFA to determine which nation or nations they are entitled to seek to represent.
Very recently, West Ham United’s newest prodigy, Declan Rice, has committed his future to seeking to represent England at full international level, despite having made several appearances for the Republic of Ireland at underage level, and having a few caps for the senior side – This case will be discussed in more detail below.
When it comes to eligibility for a national team, many may think that this is a straightforward process i.e. play for one team and one team only – the country of birth. However, these recent cases have highlighted that the situation is more complicated than that, taking account of, inter alia, differing circumstances of geography and citizenship, and on occasion can prove controversial.
The rules governing a player’s eligibility for a national representative team are summarised below.