Sunday 23 October 2016

Grealish saga has become a media circus

MARTIN Samuel is normally worth a read. His columns are usually thoughtful and well-argued but he strayed from the righteous path when he stuck his oar into the Jack Grealish debate.

His Daily Mail commentary on the circus now surrounding Grealish is arrogant, smug and remarkably self-serving from an English point of view and demands as a conclusion that the rules should be changed to suit his world view.

Essentially, it was okay for Andy Townsend to declare for Ireland because he wasn't good enough to play for England but because Grealish shows promise, he shouldn't be allowed take advantage of FIFA's much discussed, often refined and legally tested nationality rules.

It's a bizarre interpretation and absolute nonsense. It should also be noted that he wasn't writing about this subject before young Grealish cut loose at Wembley.

In a purely technical way, passports are the issue here, nothing else.

If a footballer presents an Ireland passport to a referee before a senior international game and has not played in a competitive fixture for another nation under FIFA rules, he is fully entitled to pull on a green shirt.

That, effectively, is where the rule starts and finishes and it has been fully tested by the IFA officials in the Court of Arbitration for Sport as a result of Shane Duffy's decision to claim his Ireland passport.

The world is a complicated place and England's cricket and rugby teams seem to be able to accommodate that fact with some ease.

Recently, Roy Hodgson's scouts went to some lengths to court Adnan Januzaj, a fact Samuel has the grace to point out and criticise, but there is a long history of the English adoption of a range of nationalities to suit their sporting needs.

Mo Farah was born in Mogadishu. Eoin Morgan was born in Dublin. Januzaj was born in Serbia.

The list is long and reflects England's colonial past as much as the new mobility of international sportsmen and women.

The dominance of the Premier League is another kind of colonialism and it has had a devastating impact on the football industry in this country. Our best go to England and are economic migrants as much as any brick-layer.

Lads like Grealish are rooted in that same tradition of migration.

There is only an issue here because Grealish is talented and coveted by both nations. He plays for Ireland and has done so for a long time.

It was Gareth Southgate who made contact with an Ireland international player and his father.

Samuel is right about one thing. This entire Grealish saga undermines international football and the note of hysteria which has crept into the discussion from the usual suspect is utterly counter-productive and unfair. No player is bigger than Ireland and until Grealish makes up his mind, what can Martin O'Neill or the FAI do?

Should they send him a green shirt with a gold embossed No. 11 on the back of it and a signed letter of intent to play him against England and every game Ireland play for the rest of time?

Let the kid do what he wants. If he chooses England, good luck to him.

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