Football avec frontiers

UEFA says it wants to promote footballing harmony. So why is it colluding with passport officials, in branding international stars illegal immigrants?

In the past few months, passport officials have branded international stars like Mondragon, Edu and Leonardo as illegal immigrants, because it has come to light that they have documents falsifying their nationality.

But the scandal should really centre upon the response of the European football ruling body Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and fans should demand to know why they have not stood firm against the crackdown.

Euro 2000 was promoted as ‘football sans frontiers’. So why has UEFA decided to ditch unifying sentiments, and accept a more divisive policy? UEFA’s acceptance of the need to hinder the international movement of players, and their collusion with a policy of harassing foreign stars, only creates new barriers of resentment, distrust and insecurity among football fans and players.

If an organisation like UEFA genuinely wants to promote sporting excellence and harmony, it should encourage freedom of movement without restriction, enabling players to make the most of the opportunities available to them across the globe.

After all, the obstacles of officialdom are the reason that footballers have had to falsify documents in the first place. The likes of Brazilian Edu believe in their ability, and refuse to be hindered by trivialities like nationality. Thankfully such players are prepared to take a big risk in order to reach the top of their profession.

Playing for Lazio has moulded Argentinean Juan Veron into one of the world’s finest players - and in return he has contributed hugely to Serie A. Surely fans should be grateful to his non-existent Italian grandmother for her positive influence, rather than critical of the midfielder’s manoeuvres.

Football needs to ditch outdated concepts like nationality, which threaten brilliant careers and frustrate mass entertainment. Football should open its doors to the thousands of athletes who are unable to enter Europe because immigration officials bar their way. If UEFA really believes that football is about bringing the world closer together - or even just about realising sporting potential - it should put itself at the forefront of arguing for freedom of movement.

In the meantime, it falls to the Spanish to take up the challenge. When asked why they have no forthcoming plans to check passports, a Primera Liga spokesman declared ‘we are not the police’. With such an enlightened outlook, no wonder the standard of football in Spain is so high.

For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.

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