The game’s naturalised citizens

The recent form of Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzajhas started a debate about him turning for England.-AP

This is an old, old story in football and goes far back to the 1930s and Italy’s so-called Oriundi, meaning migrating creatures who come in from abroad. In Italy’s case from South America, when Italy won the second World Cup in Rome beating the Czechs in the final, three of that team were seasoned Argentinean internationals. By Brian Glanville.

Adnan Januzaj for England? Or if not for England, then for Belgium, Kosovo or Albania. Belgium being where he grew up, Kosovo and Albania the countries where his parents came from. Recently the 18-year-old winger made a sensational debut for Manchester United at Sunderland, scoring two spectacular goals.

Which at once raised the question, which international team could he play for. Asked whether it might be England, a somewhat academic matter at best since he would not qualify for the next five years, England’s manager Roy Hodgson hinted that it might be desirable — he himself is unlikely anyway to be in office by then.

It seems that Januzaj doesn’t want to play for Belgium though he was born and initially was developed there. Distant and intangible though the prospects be of his ever wearing an England jersey, there have been some brusque reactions over the very suggestion that it might happen.

One leading columnist wrote: “Only a cynical chancer would bend the rules to steal United kid Januzaj for England.” While an actual English international of some renown, the highly talented playmaker, Jack Wilshere of Arsenal, opined, “The only people who should play for England are English people. If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain. We have to remember what we are, and we are English, and we tackled hard and we are tough on the pitch and we are hard to beat… We can play possession football. We have started to show that over the last few years and it suits my game.”

This brought an irate response from the leading England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, a South African-born there to English parents, who adduced a list of England cricketers who came from abroad. To which Wilshere politely replied that he was talking about football alone. The fact, however, is that over recent years the England cricket team has made somewhat debatable use of cricketers who have matured elsewhere. Yet this is an old, old story in football and goes far back to the 1930s and Italy’s so-called Oriundi, meaning migrating creatures who come in from abroad. In Italy’s case from South America, when Italy won the second World Cup in Rome beating the Czechs in the final, three of that team were seasoned Argentinean internationals. The thuggish centre half Luis Felipe Monti, the left winger Raimundo Orsi, who scored a freakish goal in that final, and the right winger Enrico Guaita.

“If they can die for Italy, they can play for Italy,” claimed the team’s commanding leader, Vittorio Pozzo. Meaning, that the players were liable for national service in the Army. But when Italy invaded Abyssinia a couple of years later, Guaita and others were arrested by police, trying to cross the Swiss border. Play for Italy, yes, die for Italy no.

When I lived in Italy in the early 1950s, I remember going to a match in Genoa in December 1953 when an Argentinean inside right Eduardo Ricagni, who had scarcely set foot on Italian soil and would play for Juventus and Milan, was almost instantly capped for the Azzurri. Almost a year later in Rome I saw that immensely gifted inside left Juan Schiaffino, a hero of Uruguay’s astonishing victory over Brazil in the World Cup 1950 decider in Rio, turn out for Italy against Argentina.

In 1957 a dazzling young Argentina team won the South American Championship with the so-called ‘Trio of Death’, the inside forwards Humberto Maschio. Valentin Angelillo and Enrique Omar Sivori. Scarcely was the tournament over, all three had been snapped up by Italian clubs. All three were promptly excluded from an Argentina side which, the following year in the World Cup in Sweden, was thrashed 6-1 by the Czechs. It would happen now, but it doomed Argentina to humiliation. Eventually all three were capped by Italy.

Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who scored for Italy recently in the 2-2 draw in Denmark, is the latest of the Oriundi to figure in the national team. He had two seasons with the Huracan club of Argentina before setting out on his European travel, which took him to five different Italian clubs and to a couple of seasons with Espanyol in Spain.

One of the most spectacular goals ever scored for England was the inspired work of John Barnes. I was in the Maracana Stadium that day to see the Jamaican born outside left glide elegantly past one defender after another, before shooting home. In the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in the World Cup of 1986, I saw Barnes, on as a substitute, twice race around the Argentine right flank defence to set up a goal for England, then so nearly make another with similar fine run. Barnes came to England because his father was military attaché at the Jamaican Embassy; and was discovered by Watford playing park football. He certainly perfected his game in England but he equally certainly wasn’t born there.

The present England under-21 team includes such young talents as Wilfried Zaha, born in the Ivory Coast, Raheem Sterling born in Jamaica, Nathaniel Chalobah, born in Sierra Leone, and Saido Berahino, born in Burundi. But all came early to England.