(E) Croatia v Australia, a history lesson of the 20th century's longer migration trails
Croatia versus Australia, in Group F, will be a history lesson
World Cup teams welcome adopted sons
The Sunday Times May 21, 2006
Croatia versus Australia, in Group F, will be a history lesson on one of the 20th centuryâ™s longer migration trails.
World Cup teams welcome adopted sons
Germanyâ™s shock World Cup selection, David Odonkor, is one of many sons of immigrants who will play for their parentsâ™ new nations next month. By Ian Hawkey
WORLD CUP hosts Germany have played their Theo Walcott card. When coach Jürgen Klinsmann revealed his 23-man squad there was more bafflement than surprise at the selection of David Odonkor, a 22-year-old Billy Whizz who reckons he might even outsprint Walcott â” Odonkor runs 100m in under 11 seconds â” and has been picked on potential rather than goalscoring pedigree. He has only two goals in a 73-match Bundesliga career for Borussia Dortmund, and he is a striker.
Odonkor had two routes to the World Cup. Being there with Germany would, until Monday, have been considered unlikely, but last year he was contacted by the Ghanaian Football Association, which was interested in seeing if he would like to commit to the country of his fatherâ™s birth. He thanked them but decided he would stick with his birthplace, Germany. That did not rule out Ghana, because since January 2004 it has been possible under Fifa regulations for players of dual nationality with junior honours with one country to win senior caps for another. The rule only stipulates that they must make the switch before they are 21.
Run through the 736 names going to Germany and political migration is reflected widely. Immigrant communities have always produced a disproportionate number of talented footballers.
The relaxed Fifa ruling meant that in the days leading up to last Mondayâ™s deadline for squad announcements, there were frantic manoeuvring by various FAs to see if they could make players their own. Tunisia made a late plea to the exciting France youth player, Hatem Ben Arfa; he turned them down. Angola had been pushing for a pair of former Portugal youth players to represent them. Alas, the cases of Pedro Emanuel and Chainho, both over 21, would not meet Fifaâ™s guidelines.
Angolaâ™s best footballer, Rafael Nando, was hoping to be in Odonkorâ™s position. Rafael was born in Angola, his parents fled the war there when he was eight, and by his teens he was making a career in Germany. He didnâ™t make Klinsmannâ™s squad, but Miroslav Klose and Lucas Podolski did. When they get together, they speak their fathersâ™ tongue, Polish. When the draw was made, Podolski apparently sent Klose a text message saying:
âœCan you believe it?â Germany will play Poland in the first round.
The squads of France, Switzerland, England, Sweden and Holland are full of first- and second-generation immigrants, their countries having opened their borders in the 1970s and 1980s for political, humane or economic reasons. Hollandâ™s Khalid Boulahrouz is one of several young Dutch-Moroccans making reputations for themselves. Swedenâ™s attack will be led by the son of a Bosnian, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Switzerlandâ™s Balon Behrami has a Kosovan background, and Blerim Dzemaili is the child of Macedonian parents. Croatia versus Australia, in Group F, will be a history lesson on one of the 20th centuryâ™s longer migration trails. Croatia goalkeeper Joey Didulica grew up in Australia but chose to follow the European branch of his family tree; Mark Viduka could have done the same, and played his first football in Europe for Croatia Zagreb. But next month Viduka will play against Croatia in Stuttgart as a dinkum Aussie.