But Are You Korean?
Buzzwords. Words that are used frequently in the media and society. Globalization. One of those buzzwords. How many countries and people are becoming one. Here in America and in western Europe you can see it everywhere. Cars from Japan, food from Europe, languages from everywhere. But over in Korea, it’s not quite so. At least not yet.
While I do find it interesting to look at the world and how it’s changing, this blog isn’t exactly the place for that. Yet globalization is finding it’s way into the footballing world. Actually it’s been happening for a while. It used to be that each country, at least the major powers, all had their own identity they were associated with (rightly or wrongly). Brazil had flair and skill, Spain had technical prowess, Germany was smart and efficient, England was strong, Italy was defensive. This applied to the national teams and their clubs. But as time went on, this identity has lessened to an extent, particularly at the club level. Players from all countries have gone to all others. So much so that rules and laws have been needed, or debated, to help clubs keep their identities.
Lately, this has started to become more common at the national team level as well. Players moving from countries to play at the club level, where they stay for several years and earn citizen status in their new country. Then for many, they are eligible to play for that country. There are three basic ways you can qualify to represent a nation:
1) You were born there
2) You had a biological parent or grandparent born there
3) You are a citizen there
The 2nd and 3rd way is how many players gain access to national teams where they are not originally from. Italy’s famous oriundi come to mind. Players like Mauro Camoranesi, Raimondo Orsi, or . . . Amauri. This is common with some European nations, but not in Korea. Korea’s case is that the KFA is attempting to get a player naturalized. A Brazilian named Eninho. Eninho was born in Brazil, and has Brazilian ancestors. Eninho has spent the past five years in Korea plying his trade in the K-League with Daegu and lately Jeonbuk Motors (where he played under Choi Kang-Hee).
Eninho is talented. And he would be a good addition to the squad, which is why Choi and the KFA are pushing for his naturalization. It has since been denied, but the KFA has reportedly filed an appeal. But, who is “right”? Choi and the KFA or society. Should countries use players who have played in their league for a few years in the national team? Does this cheapen national identities?
The general feel in Korea is that most seem to be against this move. Choi seems to favor this move purely for footballing reasons. The committee that recommends naturalization said that they chose not to recommend Eninho because he does not speak Korean, which shows a lack of sincerity on his part, and I agree. It would be one thing if a player truly loved a country he moved to and played for, but I feel that if Brazil and Korea were calling, it would be an easy choice for Eninho.
To contrast this, let’s look at a more high profile case. Giuseppe Rossi. Born and raised in the U.S., Rossi opted to play for Italy, his parent’s homeland and a place he spent some time as a youngster in Parma’s youth set up. Even in the U.S. Rossi told of how he would follow Serie A and the Azzurri. I don’t fault Rossi for picking Italy because of his cultural connection. Eninho seems to have no cultural connection with Korea. He played at several clubs in Brazil and then ended up in Korea. I feel this is the end of Eninho’s connection with Korea. Purely professional.
Which is why I oppose this move; on a philosophical level. There’s a reason why the World Cup, and to a lesser extent Euro, the Copa America, Gold Cup, Asian Championship, and African Cup of Nations is so important to people. Yes, the football is usually a higher level overall, but that’s not the main reason. It’s a time for nations to come together to celebrate a common bond. This feeling may not be as strongly felt here in the U.S., where many of us come from different countries and retain strong connections to them. But in many other countries, such as Korea, the feeling of nationalism is extremely strong. During the regular season, many K-League games experience sparse attendance. Many national team games are only half full. But when the big tournaments roll around, the whole nation is obsessed with the Taeguk Warriors. Many people who could care less about soccer and sports, live and die with each kick of the national team. Top players become national heroes.
I don’t have a problem with club teams who field a large number of imports, but I do with the national team. I realize the value of Eninho and the skill that he could bring to the team, but I hope that Choi Kang-Hee realizes that this isn’t Jeonbuk Motors. It’s not about going out and finding the best players that you can, but utilizing the players available to the best of their ability. Leave the Republic of Korea team to the Koreans. Not the players who play in Korea.
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