FIFA rule dashes Arteta England hopes

In recent weeks there has been a campaign growing around the

Everton midfielder, who had been led to believe he would be

eligible for England after completing five years residency in the

United Kingdom. Because Arteta has never played for Spain, it

appeared he would be able to switch national allegiances once he

had been granted UK citizenship. Earlier this week, the Football

Association stressed they had not been asked to investigate the

matter by Fabio Capello, although it was thought the England coach

had spoken briefly to Arteta, who was said to be enthusiastic about

the prospect. However, it now transpires Arteta is almost certainly

not eligible at all. “Under our understanding of FIFA rules the

player is ineligible to play for England,” an FA spokesman said on

Wednesday evening. While world governing body FIFA are anxious not

to pre-judge any request from the FA, it has been pointed out the

rules on previously appearing for national sides do not cover full

internationals alone. The little known Article 18.1.a within the

FIFA statutes outlines that any player who has represented their

country in an official competition, at whatever level, would at

that time need to have held a passport for the country they later

wish to play for in order to be permitted to make the switch. In

Arteta’s case, because he played for Spain in the Under-16 European

Championships and then in the FIFA World Championships at Under-17

level, the only way he could satisfy the current criteria is if he

held a UK passport at the same time. It hardly seems likely a

28-year-old from San Sebastian would have gained such a document

over a decade ago, which means that even if an application to FIFA

was made on the FA’s behalf, it would automatically be rejected.

This news is bound to come as a blow to Arteta, and maybe even

Capello. However, it does save an awful lot of controversy, not

least because Scotland boss Craig Levein recently pointed out a

gentleman’s agreement between the four Home Nations where they have

all vowed not to exploit eligibility loopholes.