FIFA end England’s bid for Mikel Arteta
FIFA last night indicated that Mikel Arteta will never be able to play for England having fallen foul of an obscure international rule that appears to have gone unnoticed by Fabio Capello and the Football Association.
The latest development in the Arteta saga suggests that Capello has endured the controversy that surrounded his informal approach to the player this month for nothing.
A Fifa source said last night that although the situation was ‘hypothetical' because the FA had made no move yet to naturalise Arteta but that ‘on the information we think we know it would appear unlikely he could play for England.'
The problem relates to article 18 of the Fifa statutes governing the circumstances under which a ‘dual national' can switch countries. Article 18.1a stipulates that any player who wants to switch to the second of his dual nationalities must have held that second nationality at the time he represented his original country at junior or under-21 level.
In short, Arteta had to have been eligible to play for England at the same time that he played under-16 football for Spain. Without that qualification it is impossible for him to play for the England senior team now.
The 28-year-old played for Spain as a teenager in the 1999 under-16 Uefa European championships and the Fifa World under-17 championships of the same year. Under the guidelines for switching nationality in order to play for England now he would needed to have had English eligibility in 1999.
It is accepted that Arteta has never held a British passport and would only qualify for one now by virtue of the seven years he has spent in Britain with Rangers and Everton.
It has always been known that Arteta played under-21 and junior football for Spain but — having never represented Spain at senior level — that was not thought to preclude him from playing for England. What Capello does not seem to have picked up on is the statute that dictates Arteta would have to have dual nationality as far back as 1999.
The issue had proved so contentious among the England players that they were unsure whether or not to endorse Arteta switching nationality.
Gareth Barry described it as ‘a hard debate' and admitted he could not make his mind up where he stood on it.
Barry said: “A lot of other countries are doing it. The German team in the summer had a high percentage of players who weren't born in the country. It's such a tough debate.'“