Naturalized Brazilian Players: Euro 2008
What team doesn’t have a Brazilian born player in its ranks in this Euro 2008 tournament? Well, on the other hand, who wouldn’t want one. But is the ability to gain citizenship a bit too easy? A bit too: 'try to win at all costs' and defeats the purpose of pulling a team together made up of your own countrymen.
I'm fine with seeing a Brazilian running nearly every one of the pizza joints here in the Bay Area, but I'd rather not see a Brazilian on nearly every European football team.
I liked seeing Tevez wear the Argentine flag like a superhere's cap after Manchester United one the Champions League, but in Euros, I’d like to see all the players united by one flag. I like seeing the fans all in orange when Holland plays and all in yellow when the Swedes take the pitch. There’s no Brazilian flags immersed in the crowd, this is Europe afterall and not South Amercia. And don't get me wrong, I love Brazil and their players are the best in the world, from Robinho to Ronaldinho to Kaka. It's just that this is a European tournament, here the the national anthems aren't mixed with samba.
From Poland to Germany, to, at least somewhat understandably, the Portuguese team, there's a common thread in this year’s Euro 2008 tournament: pick up a Brazilian player if you can. At least with Portugal they share the same language, but Poland, Germany? I'm sure I'm missing some.
Here's a quick run down of some of the teams and their Brazilian born players:
- Guerreiro Roger (Poland)
- Mehmet Aurelio (Turkey)
- Deco (Portugal)
- Pepe (Portugal)
- Kevin Kuranyi (Germany)
- Marcos Senna (Spain)
- Eduardo da Silva (Croatia)
Other countries with Brazilian born players who competed in World Cups:
- Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Japan)
- Alex (Japan)
- Francileudo Silva Dos Santos (Tunisia)
- Dudú (Croatia)
- Antonio Naelson Sinha (Mexico)
Born in a different country than they play for - this would be a long list:
- Jonathan de Guzman (Born in Canada but plays for Holland)
- Owen Lee Hargreaves (Born in Canada but plays for England)
- Miroslav Klose (Born in Poland but play for Germany)
- Lukas Podolski (Born in Poland but play for Germany)
- Mauro Camoranesi (Born in Argentina but play for Italy)
- Gerald Asamoah (Born in Ghana but played for Germany)
- Hamit Altintop (Born in Germany but plays for Turkey)
- Hakan Balta (Born in Germany but plays for Turkey)
I'd have to say that Guerreiro stood out when he came on for Poland against Germany. The team started to string together passes and he was instrumental in holding on to the ball and orchestrating the few attacks that they had. But isn't there a Polish player our there just as skillful? They might have to dig deep, but I would think there is.
Here's what FIFA president Blatter had to say about the issue in the past:
Exasperated at seeing Brazil-born players naturalized and assimilated into national teams around the world, Blatter launched an angry tirade last year against the "invaders" jeopardizing the international game.
"If we don't take care about the invaders from Brazil," he said, "then at the next World Cups, in 2014 and 2018, out of the 32 teams you will still have national teams, but we will have 16 full of Brazilian players."
In some ways you can’t blame countries like Poland for picking up a Brazilian player, and then you can’t blame the Brazilian player who joins the team either. He just wants to play at the highest level he can. Who wouldn't want to step on to the field in Euro 2008. And there are so many outstanding players in Brazil, it must be terribly difficult to break into the squad - impossible for some. However, don't they feel a bit like an imposter - as though they're in some kind of cover band. They don't speak the same language, don't know the national anthems I'm guessing.
I'm sure there are a number of players in countries like Spain and Germany who were born there who could easily replace players like Senna and Kuranyi. Players who are comparable to these players in terms of skill and talent. Players who are now sitting at home as they watch their country play, cursing the national team coach.
But even the United States has a player who could play for Brazil in Benny Feilhaber. Could you imagine the uproar in Brazil if a player who'd spent a majority of his time in the United States suited up for the yellow and blue. Sure, Benny is having a tough time getting time with the U.S. national team these days, so it's not like he could have ever played for Brazil, but it's another example. More likely, the country he could have played for was Austria. As the Austrian coach Andreas Herzog approached him to play but he chose to play for the United States – looks like Austria could use his services more than the U.S. though these days.
Remember when the United States was full of naturalized players, did that really help us in the long run? Was that the only way we would have qualified for the World Cup in the past? I don't think so. Were there players out there who were better than Preki? Perhaps not as skilled as Preki, but players who would have gained a great deal from playing in the World Cup no doubt. If there was a way we could have signed a Brazilian back then I'm sure we would have. Edu, the former Arsenal and now Valencia player, was hoping to play for England if he couldn't play for Brazil. He gained British citizenship but was called up for Brazil in 2004.
Am I digging into the topic too much though? The world is a mix of all these different cultures what with globalization, and families are made up of different nationalities all the time, why not have a team that's a mix. Doesn’t this make the tournament even more interesting? Seeing a player like Karel Poborsky hold back from celebrating when he scores a goal against Poland because that was the place of his birth and he still has family there. Look at Freddy Adu; Adu's someone who could have played for Ghana rather than the United States. He's a kid who's mother won a green card lottery when he was eight and now plays for the United States! He's now again the hopefully savior of U.S. soccer - this time it looks like he's coming for real.
I'd say we can't delve into this too much. We have to let things play out as they do, let's just not have all these teams unbalanced with Brazilians playing one another in international tournaments. The quick turnaround of citizenship at the last minute. It's easy to tell when a country has gone too far in their desire to win - it just looks bad and comes back to haunt them I think.
Or, we could just have Ronaldinho show up to play England all by himself. In his better days he could have taken them, not sure now.