Sun, Jun 18, 2006 - Page 22 News List

World Cup: If the competition's too tough, consider emigrating

SKILL GLUT What do countries like Brazil do if they have too many good players? Lose them to other countries who will have them in their sides

DPA , BERLIN

Japan defender Alessandro Santos.

PHOTO: AFP

Playing for your country is the greatest honor in soccer and if you can't quite manage it, then why not play for another country? That could be quite an honor as well.

Brazilian-born winger Alessandro Santos, aka Alex, was never going to make Brazil's starting 11 but he has been a regular in Japan's side since 2002.

The former Urawa Red Diamonds player hasn't just given himself the chance to play international soccer by switching allegiances, he has gained the adoration of thousands of love-struck Asian female fans. He would never have got that in Sao Paulo.

Francileudo Dos Santos Silva, another who would never have played for Brazil, spearheads Tunisia's attack.

He was discovered by Belgian club Standard Liege while playing for Sampaio, but moved on to Tunisia after a while. He was asked to take out Tunisian citizenship, but declined, hoping still to play for the selecao.

When he realized that this would not happen, he started playing for the North Africans, helping them to the 2004 African Cup of Nations.

Other "Brazilians" at this World Cup not wearing the yellow jersey include Deco.

The Barcelona midfielder was born in Sao Bernado but is also a Portuguese citizen. He was called up to the Portugal squad after being constantly overlooked by the country of his birth.

He made them sorry for overlooking him when he made his Portugal debut against Brazil in March 2003 and scored the goal that gave Portugal their first victory over the South Americans in 37 years.

Mexican striker Zinha is another of the Brazilian-born players doing duty in a foreign jersey.

But it is not only Brazilians who have opted to play for another country. You have Ghanaians playing for Togo, Ivorians playing for Switzerland and France, Nigerians for Togo and the US, and Argentines turning out for Spain and Mexico.

And then there is the Trinidad and Tobago team, where to be born on either of the islands is more the exception than the rule.

Had it not been for the stubbornness of Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, this World Cup could have seen the first brother versus brother duel.

Ivory Coast-born Saloman Kalou was told by Netherlands coach Marco van Basten that he would be in his World Cup squad if granted Dutch citizenship, but Verdonk refused to fast-track the application. Had she not done so, Kalou could have ended up playing against his brother Bonaventure Kalou, who captains the Ivory Coast.

Polish-born German internationals Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski did play against Poland at these finals.

Klose was born in Opole in 1978 but has lived in Germany for almost 20 years.

He said: "I was eight-and-a-half when I came to Germany and football was a means of integration for me."

His striking partner Lukas Podolski was also born in Poland and raised in Germany. Under different circumstances, they might have lined up against the Germans, not for them.

Oliver Neuville and Gerald Asamoah are two other foreign-born players in the German squad.

Asamoah was born in Ghana and lived there till he was 12. He was invited to play for the Black Stars and traveled to Ghana for an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Mozambique.

After sitting in the hot African sun on a hard wooden bench for 90 minutes watching his compatriots battle out a 1-0 victory, he took the -- some would say wise -- decision that his future lay with Germany.

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