Northern Ireland take eligibility row to FIFA
Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson has no fear in taking on the power of FIFA.
The IFA have been urging FIFA to enforce their eligibility criteria for the last three years and stop the FAI from freely selecting Northern Ireland-born players who have no family connections in the Republic.
Now, after getting no joy from world football’s governing body the IFA are taking their fight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
And despite Northern Ireland being among the smallest nations in world football, Nelson is confident of scoring a victory against FIFA’s might.
“It’s a fight we can win,” said Nelson.
“I’d say never go into a battle you don’t think you can win and it doesn’t matter how big or small an Association you are.
“It doesn’t matter that we are a nation of 1.75 million people or if we have a population of 20 or 30 million people.
“This is about trying to get FIFA to stand by their own statutes because we think at the minute the way things stand we are being disadvantaged in a way that the other 207 members of FIFA aren’t.
“I would think that whether it’s the bigger member nation or the smallest, if there is a point of principle that you disagree with then you have to fight it and we believe strongly in the case that we will take to CAS.”
The IFA has long argued that Manchester United’s Londonderry-born Darron Gibson doesn’t qualify for the Republic of Ireland because he has no bloodline connection with the country, but concede that Shane Duffy, who last week switched his allegiance from Northern Ireland to the south, is eligible because his father and grandparents were born in County Donegal.