Belfast Telegraph

Come on FIFA, get off the fence

By Stuart McKinley

Football is, always has been and always will be, a game of opinions.

That’s why we love it so much.

What one party firmly believes in, another won’t even take on-board. That’s the way it works and it’s perfectly acceptable.

Unless you are the Irish Football Association and the Football Association of Ireland, that is.

Two very similar sounding names, but polar opposites when it comes to the interpretation of FIFA’s rules regarding the eligibility of players for international teams.

The Republic of Ireland are of the opinion that any Northern Ireland-born player who holds an Irish passport — as they are entitled to do — is fair game for selection.

Indeed, three Derry-born players and two from west Belfast have been selected for the Republic’s under-19 squad just this week.

The Irish FA say ‘hands-off’ and that FIFA’s rules, which state that a player, one of his parents or a grandparent must be ‘born on the territory of the relevant association’ in order to represent its international team, mean that holding a passport alone isn’t enough.

The case of Shane Duffy, left, is different in that his father is from Co Donegal, but it is the fact that he’s been capped at under-19 and under-21 level in competitive internationals only to be snatched away which has angered the IFA.

They were powerless to prevent his switch, but want the FIFA Statutes enforced and upheld to prevent others with no bloodline in the Republic from following him.

After getting no satisfaction from FIFA, despite pressing the world governing body for some three years, the IFA has got fed up and asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to make a decision.

It’s hardly a surprise that they are tired of asking for answers and not getting them.

This newspaper yesterday requested clarification from FIFA and received back an email which, despite being 350 words long, explained absolutely nothing and amounted to; read it and make up your own mind.

It’s time for FIFA to get off the fence, stop dodging the crux of the issue, stop responding with long-winded answers that don’t actually answer anything at all and tell us what exactly the interpretation of their own rules are.

Belfast Telegraph

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