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The united nations of football

india Updated: Jul 09, 2006 01:35 IST
Highlight Story

Football has become a great melting pot of cultures with players switching  nationalities to play the game.

IT COULDN’T have got ever more interesting than what happened in the World Cup match between Germany and Sweden last month. The German win was made of Polish parts. The scorer on that night for Germany was Polish Lukas Podolski and it had to be Poland-born Miroslav Klose to feed him with the ball, not once but twice. In the match with Brazil, Japan had taken an early lead through Keiji Tamada. But the man who set up the ball for Tamada was Brazilian Alessandro Santos aka Alex. But that’s what soccer is turning out to be — the united nations of football.

Alex is not the only Brazilian to switch nationality and wag a Japanese tongue. He was one among the five Brazilians who were playing outside the Samba team. Anderson Luiz de Sousa or Deco played for Portugal, Antonio Naelson Matas or Zinha for Mexico, Marcos Senna for Spain and Francileudo dos Santos for Tunisia.

Sau Paulo born Deco made his international debut for Portugal against Brazil in 2003 and as if to stamp his allegiance to his adopted nation he netted the winner to seal the fate of his motherland in that encounter.

There would have been more Brazilians had Rio-born Kevin Kuranyi (who has scored 14 times for Germany in 35 games), Dudu (whose omission saw Croatian fans taking to the streets in Zagreb) or Jose Clayton of Tunisia made it to their national sides. The export of Brazilians began in the 30s. The first Brazilian defector Filo played for Italy in the 1934 World Cup. More famously, Jose Altafini played for Brazil under his nickname Mazzola at the 1958 World Cup and then changed his name back to Jose Altafini and played for Italy in the 1962 tournament.

Mostly Brazilian and African players migrate to Europe as the rich talent pool in their homeland barely leaves them with a chance to don the national colours.

Brazilian Federal Football Confederation estimates around 850 Brazilians leave their homeland every year for more prosperous and stable leagues in Europe
and Asia.  Call them mercenaries or whatever, but Brazilian coaches are hot on the import list of footballing nations. Luis Felipe Scolari coaches Portugal, Brazil’s all-time legend Zico is in-charge of Asian giant Japan and Marcos Paqueta directs Saudi Arabia.

Another coach of Brazilian origin is Alexandre Guimaraes. Brazil born Guimaraes had moved to Costa Rica as a boy and is a coaching legend in his newfound homeland. As for the export of African talents to European football, the history can be traced back to the colonial period. Some of the finest players from Senegal and Cameroon have honed their skills in France, which was once their colonial master. 

France, England, Portugal, Italy also have Africans doing service for them, but for conservative Poland to have former Nigerian Emmanuel Olisadebe in its ranks takes the cake. Showing again that the melting pot of football is brimming with the African flavour. 

Netherlands was desperate to grant Ivory Coast footballer Solomon Kalou its nationality.. If that had happened, two brothers would have donned colours for two different nations. Kalou’s brother Bonaventura Kalou is a regular in the Ivory Coast team.

So when Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele, Sidney Govou and Patrick Vieira take on the Azzurris in Berlin, the black pearls will have more than a reason to cheer as the four great Frenchmen are better-known stars of African origin.

Even for that matter, we Indians can rejoice too if Vikash Dhorasoo, a Frenchman of Indian origin, gets to kick the ball at the Sunday night derby.

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