China calls up Brazil-born Elkeson for World Cup qualifier

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Brazil-born striker Elkeson is set to become the first player of non-Chinese heritage to play for China’s national soccer team when it starts its World Cup qualifying campaign next month.

According to an announcement from the Asian Football Confederation, the 30-year-old Elkeson, who has played in the Chinese league since 2013 and meets FIFA’s five-year residency requirement, has been named in the squad by coach Marcello Lippi for China’s trip to the Maldives on Sept. 10.

The Guangzhou Evergrande player, the top scorer in China in 2013 and 2014, will try to help his adopted country qualify for the World Cup for the first time since its debut appearance in 2002.

Elkeson joins Nico Yennaris, the first foreign-born player to represent China. The England-born midfielder has a Chinese mother and was signed by Chinese league club Beijing Guoan in January after taking Chinese citizenship. Yennaris, now known as Li Ke, made his national team debut in a friendly against the Philippines in June.

China was drawn in Group A of Asian qualifying along with Syria, Guam, the Philippines and the Maldives. The eight group winners will progress to the next stage along with the four best runners-up.