FIFA Discusses Easing Rules on Foreign Players

World soccer body FIFA is considering a proposal by the United Arab Emirates to ease rules under which foreign-born players can play for a national team other than the one of the country they were born in.

The new rules, if adopted at the FIFA Congress scheduled to be held in Zurich on May 31, could revive attempts by Qatar and other countries to boost their international soccer performance by luring foreign-born players with lucrative financial packages and promises of citizenship.

The UAE proposal would allow a player over the age of 18 to live only three years in a new country rather than the current five years before he can play for its national team.

The UAE proposal is expected to encounter opposition from many in the soccer world who fee that the current regulations are already too relaxed and allow players to switch nationalities too easily.

Players needed until 2004 only to have the passport of the country of the national team they played for to be qualified by FIFA.

That rule was changed after FIFA blocked Qatar from signing up Brazilian players Ailton Goncales da Silva, Leonardo de Deus Santos (Dede) and Leandro Da Silva.

Fifa ruled that players must have lived in their country for at least two years before they could play for it. That was later increased to five years.

FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter quipped at the time that he could envision a World Cup being played with teams full of Brazilian players who had changed nationalities.

Qatar is not the only country to see foreign players as a shortcut to soccer stardom. 

Portugal and Mexico have fielded foreign-born players with no parental connections to the country, as have a number of African countries.


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