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“If you live in England for five years, it doesn’t make you English.” Whether or not Jack Wilshere intended to open up a debate on nationality is unknown (I’m guessing he didn’t), but he has faced criticism from all over the sporting world.
Our national football team however, doesn’t really have an issue with this, Wilfred Zaha (Ivory Coast) being the only footballer not born in England to play for the three lions this year. So why bring this up now?
A Belgian 18 year old playing for Manchester United, who goes by the name of Adnan Januzaj is to thank, catching the spotlight only a few week ago with a sensational display against Sunderland. With the player likely to stay at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future (he signed a new five year deal recently), at the end his current contact he could be picked for England on grounds of residency.
This one display has sent many members of the media into hyper drive, declaring him a new ‘boy wonder’ or ‘sensation’, leading to Wilshere’s comments about English nationality. I however didn’t get carried away as much, since a similar teenage prospect hailed as the new ‘Wayne Rooney’ called Jose Baxter did not quite turn out to be the sensation everyone thought he would become.
Januzaj has already had interest from Belgium to play for their national team and if he progresses like many think he will do at Old Trafford, then he owes his allegiance to Manchester, not to the place where he is born. I would much rather have Januzaj turn out for England in the future than see him score against us in a world cup final… okay ‘world cup qualifier’.
But back to Jack Wilshere. You could argue he typifies the English player of old; ‘We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat’. That’s all well and good but we’re without a trophy since 1966.
England’s cricket team (in all three formats) have turned out twelve players this year who were born overseas. That’s almost 40% of the 32 different players the side have used this year.
From the South African contingent of Jonathon Trott, Nick Compton, Jade Dernbach, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb and Kevin Pietersen, all the way through to Ben Stokes and Gary Ballance, (New Zealand and Zimbabwe) the cricket team is still English through and through.
Kevin Pietersen was ignored by the South African cricket authority because of the colour of his skin, so he decided to play for England as his mother was English. He still speaks with a South African accent, but would Wilshere approve of his selection if he was a footballer?
I’m sure every single one of those players mentioned is as passionate to play for England as flag bearers such as James Anderson and Graeme Swann. I’m going to Australia and watching the Ashes in November; Trott and Stokes are two players I keep a close eye on and really enjoy watching – it doesn’t bother me one bit that they weren’t born in England.
It’s not just cricket either, almost a quarter of England’s Rugby Union team this year have been born overseas, and they come from all over. From Brad Barritt (South Africa) and Manu Tuilagi (Samoa) to Alex Corbisiero (USA) and Matt Kvesi (Germany). I’m sure all of them can speak English, all of them will know what Eastenders is or why we find Boris Johnson so hilarious (or despicable, if you’re one of those people). What’s wrong with them turning out for our country? Mo Farah fled his country and inspired a generation last summer with his breath-taking double Olympic gold in London. Should we shun him as well?
I don’t dislike Jack Wilshere; I think he’s a very good footballer who needs to stop getting injured. But did he really think about what he was saying or the impact, when he came out with those comments?
One thing he should note: his own team of Arsenal were the first English team to field 11 foreign players in a Premier League match. That can’t be good for the English game now can it Jack?