Dual Citizenship in Soccer

Dual citizenship allows for soccer players to play for two different countries, but often European clubs want their players to obtain dual citizenship to avoid the restirctions in place in their professional soccer league.  For instance, La Liga has a rule that only 3 foreigners can play on the field at one time, so it helps if players can claim duel citizenship to get around this rule.

For example, take Giovani dos Santos, the young star for Barcelona, a citizen of Mexico, Barcelona had the 18 year old attacking midfielder get his Spanish citizenship, which makes a big difference when Barcelona can only field 3 non-EU players. Ronaldinho has done the same thing, becoming a Spanish citizen even though he is of course Brazilian.

Then, there are many soccer players who have chosen to play for one country but were born in another. The United States used to have a whole crew of foreign born players.  An influx of experience that gave a boost to a young side, or did it? Weren’t there some US players who could have filled these positions and themselves gained experience and sped up the progression of US soccer?

Who were the players? What are they doing now? Are they coaching in the US?

  • Roy Wegerle (English)
  • Earnie Stewart (Dutch)
  • Preki Radosavljevic (Serbian)
  • Thomas Dooley (Germany)
  • Hugo Perez (El Salvador)
  • David Regis (French)
  • Tab Ramos (Uruguay)

You also have a player like Rossi, once a Manchester United player and now with Villareal in La Liga.  He could have played for the US but chose to try his hand at playing for Italy. Wish he’d have choosen the US. Thankfully, a player like Benny Feilhaber has selected the United States rather Austria or Brazil–he could have played for either.

In terms of citizenship, teams can institute their own rules.  Take a club like Athletic Bilbao, which is located in the Basque region of Spain.

Athletic only signs professional players native to one of the seven Basque provinces: Biscay, Gipuzkoa, Araba and Navarre in Spain and Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Baix Navarre in France.

This has gained Athletic both admirers and critics. The club has been praised for promoting home grown players and club loyalty. Critics however see the cantera policy as exclusivist.

Only Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid, and FC Barcelona have stayed in the top division the entire time.

There’s also the Mexican side, Chivas Guadalajara, which one allows Mexican born players to play for the club–and the team that’s won the most championships in Mexican football.  The Chivas are the arch enemies of Club America, where the two most popular clubs battled it out in the Superclasico.

But I guess we’re talking about a few different things here.  One being when a player uses dual citizenship to help their club field more foreign born players–much like Barcelona has done.  The second being when I country seeks out players who may just be eligible for citizenship in their country and help their national team–as the U.S. did for the World Cup in 1994.  And lastly when a club or team has an exclusivity rule, only allowing players from their home country to play for their club–as Athletic Madrid or Chivas does in Spain and Mexico.

More to come.

Related article: Naturalized Brazilians in Euro 2008