The fan - Hunter Davies counts foreigners
No more foreigners, please - from now on, our footie will be strictly British
Wouldn't it be luvverly if what Sepp Blatter is recommending comes to pass. He's president of Fifa and is normally viewed as a total wally by most of the football world, but for once, the initial reaction of most fans has been to say "yeessss". He wants professional clubs to restrict the number of foreign players. At the moment, there are no
rules about this in Britain, which means that such clubs as Chelsea
or Arsenal can and have had on the field 11 foreign-born players.
They kiss their badges, say they are so proud to play for the Blues/Reds, love their long tradition, the best fans in the world, tra la, all of which is total nonsense, not to say a bloomin' porky. 'Scuse me, this word porky, you eat it, yah? And bloomin', is not in my dictionary?
When we cheer on Portsmouth or Bolton Wanderers, wouldn't
it be nice to think that most players have some connection with the place, or at least could make a reasonable stab at finding it on the map? Unlikely today. Portsmouth has 17 different nationalities in its first-team squad while Bolton has 16. On the first day of this season, the starting line-ups in the Premiership contained 86 English-born players, compared with 103 foreigners. For those taking notes, the foreigners came from: France, Holland and the Republic of Ireland - 12 each; Spain and Denmark - nine each; Scotland - eight; Wales - seven; Northern Ireland, Australia, Nigeria and Finland - four each; Sweden and the United States - three each; Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Germany, Iceland, Israel and Portugal - two each.
Blatter's argument is that having so many foreigners over here, filling our team sheets, taking our money, shagging our women, deprives Brit-born lads. Brits might get into a Premiership academy, but their chances of making the first team are zilch. Poom. I forgot him. Comes from Estonia. Add him to the list.
This would appear very bad for football generally and Britain in particular. But is it? A Premiership academy might not get you into a Premiership team, but you still have a chance of making a career lower down the British leagues - or abroad.
And, whatever happens, the pool of professional players across the whole world, assuming we still have the same number of clubs, will remain the same. It will just mean more will have to stay in their own country. At present, while relatively few of our home-grown lads have a chance to be on a million a year and have all the women they can wear, it is giving a chance for lads from Cote d'Ivoire or Nigeria to win fame and fortune over here, and improve their football, which they could never have managed, staying at home. Isn't that fair? Isn't that good for world football?
Ah, but the romance will go out of football, if every player in your local team is foreign. In the end, the fans won't stand for it. Not true, either. The mind and emotions of a fan are very strange. He is capable of turning anyone from anywhere into a Scouser or Geordie overnight.
Arsenal fans really did consider "Paddy" Vieira one of them, a true born Gooner, until he did a runner. Chelsea fans voted that little Italian Zola their best ever player. Just after the war, when we still looked upon all Jerries as baddies, Bert Trautmann, a German ex-POW, became one of Man City's all-time heroes. He helped them win the FA Cup, despite a broken neck. Typical British bulldog spirit, eh?
The truth is, fans don't care about your birthplace or what language you speak - only if you can play well. And it's always been that way, from the very beginning. I often ask people to guess how many players in the Spurs team that won the FA Cup in 1901 actually came from London. Go on, try it. The answer is none: five were Scots, two were Welsh and one was Irish, while the three Englishmen came from Maryport, the Potteries and Grantham.
So sorry, Sepp. Footballers have always been mercenaries. You can't change that now. Me, I think that, if there is going to be a law limiting foreigners, it should apply just to managers. And only to England managers. In fact, just one country. No more Swedes, please . . .
More from New Statesman
- Online writers:
- Steven Baxter
- Rowenna Davis
- David Allen Green
- Mehdi Hasan
- Nelson Jones
- Gavin Kelly
- Helen Lewis
- Laurie Penny
- The V Spot
- Alex Hern
- Martha Gill
- Alan White
- Samira Shackle
- Alex Andreou
- Nicky Woolf in America
- Bim Adewunmi
- Kate Mossman on pop
- Ryan Gilbey on Film
- Martin Robbins
- Rafael Behr
- Eleanor Margolis