Can Adnan Januzaj play for England? The home nations agreement explained
I can’t imagine Adnan Januzaj would have been a popular answer to ‘Name a Manchester United first team player’ in pub quizzes across the country last week.
Who knows, it may have even been a ‘pointless answer’ on that BBC TV show, were it to come up.
However it seems United have uncovered a future star in the Belgian midfielder.
With Sunderland holding a 1-0 lead over United at the Stadium of Light last weekend, two goals on his Premier League debut ensured a dramatic turnaround.
The 18-year-old’s second score was something to behold, as his powerful first time volley nestled itself in the corner of the Sunderland net and sealed the three points for the visitors.
But it seems that Januzaj has not, in fact, come out of nowhere.
He sat on the United bench for the first time in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge. Although he didn’t make an appearance in their thrilling 5-5 draw with West Bromwich Albion, he must have made an impression on Fergie.
In June, Touchline Talk took a look at his career and prospects for the future as part of our ‘One for the Future’ series, and it seems David Moyes has been keeping tabs on the player all summer.
But not even he could have predicted the impact the youngster could have had on the footballing world this weekend.
Suddenly the likes of Barcelona are reportedly interested in bidding for the youngster this January, so United and Moyes may have a battle on their hands.
But in recent days, attentions have turned to Januzaj’s international career.
Born in Brussels, Belgium would be his supposed first choice FIFA nationality. But in fact he is eligible to play internationally for a number of countries.
Current FIFA legislation states:
“Any Player who [assumes] a new nationality and who has not played international football [for one Association] shall be eligible to play for the new representative team only if he fulfills 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 for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association.“
Now this means that Januzaj qualifies not only for the country of his birth, Belgium, but also for Albania through his father and Kosovo through his mother.
Furthermore, his grandmother was born in Serbia and his grandfather is from Turkey.
Now, according to these rules, Januzaj could also play for England by 2018, if he stays playing within the country continuously.
England boss Roy Hodgson has even publicly stated that the FA are keeping tabs on the 18-year-old, and earlier this week, Touchline Talk outlined why Januzaj playing for England is unlikely to happen due to the time he’ll have to wait to make his international debut.
But today I’m going to tell you why he cannot play for England.
It’s something few have heard of, but the Home Nations Agreement is going to prove a major stumbling block in the race to get Januzaj playing in the white of England.
Originally implemented in 1993 to prevent players born in the territory of one of the home nations from playing for another, the agreement was revised in 2009 and under permission from FIFA, part (d) of the above rules was changed.
As far as the home nations are concerned, (d) now reads:
“(d) He has engaged in a minimum of five years education under the age of 18 within the territory of the relevant association.“
So with Januzaj having signed for United at the age of 16, he will not be able to play for England…unless Moyes and Co. can invent a time machine and take him back to the start of his GCSEs. Unlikely at best.
“But…!” I here you hopeful England fans say, “It is the wording that is key. This is merely an ‘agreement’, not a rule. So should England choose to break it, they could.”
This is correct. Januzaj will qualify for an English FIFA nationality if he remains in the country for five years, but I do not believe England will dishonour the agreement.
If this does happen, young English players playing outside of England could be tempted away from the Three Lions with the chances of a faster route to first team international football, with no disrespect to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. This would, naturally, have a detrimental effect on the England national team.
Last year Swansea City‘s Spanish defender Angel Rangel effectively became available for Wales according to FIFA rules, as he had resided in the country for five years.
However, the Football Association of Wales respectfully stood by the agreement, ruling that he could not play for Wales.
So with at least one of the home nations willing to strictly adhere to the agreement, I can see shame a plenty were England to break the bond of trust. And that’s not going to be a good image for old Roy, is it now.