Friday, April 6, 2007

Coming Soon: More African Players in Europe?

We might be seeing more African players streaming into Europe in the near future.

According to news reports, some Scandinavian clubs are looking into the implementation of an agreement to enable them to use more players from the continent.

The Cotonou Agreement was signed in 2000 between the European Union (EU) and the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States. ACP countries include all African nations south of the Sahara.

The agreement says that citizens of ACP countries who are legally employed in the EU should be free from any form of discrimination based on nationality.

Rules in most European leagues prevent clubs from fielding more than three non-EU players per game. This has prevented clubs from signing more African players.

But Randers FC have recently succeeded in forcing the Danish Football Association (DBU) to adjust its rules.

The DBU is now in line with the trade agreement, thus enabling Randers to use their four African squad players in a single game.

Now Swedish Premiership contenders Helsingborgs (logo, above right) are calling on their country's governing body to respect the trade agreement to enable them use five Africans in a match.

"We are only asking the Swedish Football Association (SFA) to follow the Cotonou Agreement because the Danish FA has done a similar thing," Helsingborg's sports director Bo Nilsson told BBC Sport.

"Even individual players who feel that they are not being treated justly could go to the European Court crying discrimination."

Helsingborgs are threatening court action.

The move by Helsingborgs could compel federations in the EU, such as England, Spain, Italy and Holland, to adjust their laws.

But the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement in Denmark has been severely criticised by the coach of the national team Morten Olsen, who says the influx of foreigners could harm the development of native talent.

Olsen wants a system to be introduced like a Norwegian agreement which demands that clubs have at least eight locally-trained squad members.

"This would be an arrangement which everyone should welcome," said Olsen.

"We need bullet-proof rules in this area."

But the clubs disagree as players from Africa tend to be cheaper than their local counterparts.

"My contract says nothing about helping develop players for the Danish national team." Aalborg BK sporting director Lynge Jacobsen said.

This is a two-sided issue. On one hand, Africans filter into Europe, unimpeded by their nationalities and further their football abilities while making some good cash. On the other hand, this 'cheap talent' waters down development of national teams around Europe and there's a backlash, an informal collusion against Africans.

I'm all for the Africans coming into Europe. It would be great for the African game. What I don't want is a backlash because of the number of Africans playing in Europe.

Then again, it's not like Brazilians get this backlash effect. There are literally hundreds playing in Europe, especially in Germany. Not to forget Argentinians and many other South Americans. Many become citizens of their adopted countries. Mauro Camoranesi (pictured, right) is a naturalized Italian born in Argentina who helped his adopted Italy win the 2006 World Cup. Many players do this to bypass EU laws and play for their clubs.

There's an argument brewing in England that the national team is suffering because of an influx of foreign players. Look at a club like Arsenal, who regularly fields a starting eleven sans an Englishman. The argument might be true, I'm not sure.
It's a step that could significantly further the game in Africa. Or it could impede it. Time will tell.


Shyam Sundar said...

I think England is a great model to follow in terms of foreign players playing for the country. I think this is one of the reasons why the Premiership is the most exciting football league in the world.

And also why other leagues are floundering at the moment in terms of TV revenues et al. Spain comes a close second with its 'citizen'ship rules but it is beset with problems of an another kind which includes racism etc.

I may be idealistic but i will and i think everyone should, judge players on talent and not passports.

Shyam Sundar said...

Oh on a different note, i am sorry to be the one to break this to you - i think Valencia is gonna get whipped by the Special One's team on Tuesday nite...

Viva la blues....

Cesar said...

I agree with you that players should be judged solely on talent and not passport.

I think if countries like Spain & Italy don't change their racist attitudes, they'll lose out on players of high quality from Africa. Why would they want to go there and be treated 2nd-class? Eto'o is an example of someone who might leave because of this.

Oh, and no way we lose! Read my prediction and more analysis at ... AMUNT!