The president of Iceland’s soccer association, Geir Þorsteinsson (Thorsteinsson), appeared on Soccer Morning with Jason Davis on Friday to discuss Aron Jóhannsson’s decision to play for the U.S. national team over Iceland.
In part, Þorsteinsson joined Soccer Morning to discuss a release from the KSÍ following Jóhannsson’s announcement that said, among other statements, that “Aaron’s ties with soccer in the United States are nonexistent.”
The striker played for IMG Academy in Florida in 2007-08 after stints with Icelandic youth clubs, and he returned to make his professional debut with Fjölnir of Reykjavik in 2008. Jóhannsson played for Iceland at the under-21 level, earning 10 caps and scoring one goal, and he started every game at the 2011 UEFA European U21 Championship.
“This particular player has been brought up through all the youth levels in Icelandic football until he reached the age of 20, and then he went abroad,” Þorsteinsson told Soccer Morning.
The KSÍ boss seemed to disagree with the FIFA regulation more than Jóhannsson’s decision in particular, although he said he would like the player to explain his actions.
“He hasn’t spoken, so we don’t know why,” he said. “Is it for us the conditions? What is the real reason? We need to know.”
In the KSÍ’s statement on Tuesday, the association said that it “has received suggestions” that Jóhannsson’s move was influenced by a greater possibility to earn sponsorship money as a U.S. player than as an Icelandic player.
Þorsteinsson’s full interview is available here:
The text of FIFA’s Regulations Governing the Application of FIFA Statutes Article 3.6 states that a player can play for a national team “only if, in addition to having the relevant nationality, he fulfills at least one of the following conditions:
a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
d) He has lived continuously on the territory of the relevant Association for at least two years.
In addition, according to Article 3.8, a player can only file a one-time request to change allegiance if he hasn’t played in an official “A”-level international game. Although Jóhannsson received a couple of Iceland call-ups, most recently for World Cup qualifiers in October 2012 against Switzerland and Albania, he did not step on the field.
With the seemingly endless statutes and possibilities, some strange permutations of national teams have made recent appearances at major tournaments.
In Turkey’s Euro 2008 squad that finished in third place, five of its players had a similar lack of ties to the country they represented: Colin Kazim-Richards was born and grew up playing in England; Mehmet Aurélio is Brazilian; Hakan Balta and Hamit Altintop are German; and Mevlüt Erdinç is French.
While nothing is inherently wrong about players representing other nations, especially those with unique immigrant situations such as Turkey and the United States, it does raise a question of veracity with regard to international competition.
If a nation wins a World Cup with a squad comprising primarily foreign-born and raised players, can that country claim to have won anything? Does it add an asterisk to what should be an undeniably major triumph on the global stage?
In Jóhannsson’s case, he is good enough to play for both Iceland and the U.S. Other players could use their second nationalities to get into situations they otherwise could not. Jermaine Jones, for example, only declared his intent to play for the U.S. after German coach Joachim Löw decided he was surplus to the current crop.
Players switch clubs like playing cards, but representing a national team is supposed to have a different sort of resonance in the soccer world. These days, it feels like another transfer market has opened up among national teams.
As Þorsteinsson asked in his interview this morning: “Is this really how football should be done at national team level?”