Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The quota issue with the FFF, the underlying story

It would appear that the quota fiasco has been put behind us but the underlying issue remains an interesting one to debate. What is that issue? The dilemma that nations such as France have when it comes to players who have the opportunity to play for different national squads - whether due to dual nationalities or because of residence rules. During this debate over who said what and when the word quota was mentioned, it made me think about the issue of France developing talent through their youth organizations only to see them commit to a different nation when it comes to the A side. Originally I was adamant that this was bad for Les Bleus and France. How can Les Bleus nurture a player through all the youth teams only to see him commit to a national team for a country he may have never set foot in? According to a report, linked to the entire quota discussion, close to 50% of recent players that have gone through the French development system committed themselves to another national side. That appears like a high number. I am sure that some of those players could help Blanc and the squad.

Players such as Moussa Sow, who is the Ligue 1 leader in goals, would be nice for Blanc to call upon. How about Chamakh for Arsenal? Born in France, playing U19 for France but decided to play for Morocco. Or Taarabt who showcased for Les Bleus at the youth level but also decided to follow the same path as Chamakh, granted Taarabt was born in Morocco and moved to France at a young age, but he was still groomed by the youth system for Les Bleus. Of course there are some players that have gone through the famous Clairefontaine academy who now play for other national sides:

Name DOB Club before Academy Years at Academy Club after Academy Current Club International
Nicolas Anelka 14 March 1979 (age 32) France Trappes FC 1993–1996 France Paris Saint-Germain England Chelsea France France
Habib Bamogo 8 May 1982 (age 29) France ASV Châtenay-Malabry 1994–1998 France Montpellier France Nice Burkina Faso Burkina Faso
Sébastien Bassong 9 July 1986 (age 24) France FC Saint-Leu 1999–2002 France Metz England Tottenham Cameroon Cameroon
Habib Bellaïd 26 December 1986 (age 24) France Red Star FC 1999–2002 France Strasbourg France Sedan Algeria Algeria
Hatem Ben Arfa 7 March 1987 (age 24) France AC Boulogne Billencourt 1999–2002 France Lyon England Newcastle France France
Jimmy Briand 7 August 1985 (age 25) France CSF Brétigny 2000–2001 France Rennes France Lyon France France
Abou Diaby 11 May 1986 (age 25) France Red Star FC 1999–2002 France Auxerre England Arsenal France France
Issiar Dia 8 June 1987 (age 23) France AC Boulogne Billencourt 1999–2002 France Amiens Turkey Fenerbahçe S.K. Senegal Senegal
William Gallas 17 August 1977 (age 33) France AVG Football 1992–1994 France Caen England Tottenham France France
Thierry Henry 17 August 1977 (age 33) France ES Viry-Châtillon 1992 France Monaco United States New York Red Bulls France France
Blaise Matuidi 9 August 1987 (age 23) France CO Vincennois 1999–2002 France Créteil France Saint-Étienne France France
Mourad Meghni 16 April 1984 (age 27)
1999–2000 Italy Bologna Italy Lazio Algeria Algeria
Gabriel Obertan 26 February 1989 (age 22) France Paris Saint-Germain 2004–2005 France Bordeaux England Manchester United France France U21
Jérôme Rothen 31 March 1978 (age 33) France Versailles FC 1991–1994 France Caen Croatia Hajduk Split France France
Louis Saha 8 August 1978 (age 32)
1991–1994 France Metz England Everton France France

What is interesting to me...those players that are showcasing for other national squads, are they really good enough to be key members of the French national set up? The answer is no. They are good players, no doubt, could be useful for Les Bleus. Yet they are not players that I look at and say "wow, they would be the starting for Les Bleus in the place of Insert current player name"

On the contrary, players who could have showcased for another nation, who became key elements for France, opted for France. Vieira, Desailly, Makelele, Trezeguet and Zidane could have all played for another nation but decided to play for France.  Will some players opt for another national team that could become an important cog, sure. Hey it would have been nice if Higuain had opted to play for Les Bleus rather than Argentina! I do realize he lived in France a whole 3 months....but he was born in France! France, both the soccer team and the nation itself, have been built on the immigrants and colonies. This diversity brings it strength and a multicultural diversity. From a footballing point of view there is good - players like Vieira and Desailly - and there is reality - players who are developed by France only to play for the likes of Mali, Algeria or Morocco.

At the end I will accept this reality to take advantage of the good: picking from a diverse, large and talented pool of players.  It is never pleasant to nurture a player only to have them snub you at the ultimate moment. That happens in international football. The world is flat, nations like France with a strong youth system and a diverse population might "suffer" more because of this, but it will also have a first look at more talent than other nations. Rather than worry about quotas, the FFF should work on how to ensure their prized jewels that might switch nationalities are put on a track where that becomes a non issue.


Jeff said...

Kanoute is one that springs to mind - he was a bit of a late bloomer. For a time he would have been a likely selection, but he had already decided to play for Mali.

Assou-Ekotto, I gather, did not participate in the academy system, but he's another Frenchman playing for another country who is arguably good enough to play for France. He's another player like Kanoute hitting good form a little later in his career.

Honestly, because I rarely get to follow the youth teams, I often do not know about which France players are giving up on playing for the senior side.

I'd love to get to watch more of France's youth teams.

GFC said...

Kanoute was actually on the preliminary list for the Euros in Portugal. He had even played a match for the French A side, the pseudo JV for the senior squad. But he opted to play for Mali, even thought, I believe, he had never even set foot in the country at that point!

There are definitely some talented players that showcase for other nations that France could use for the senior side. The question remain, are there any players that were in the French set up that opted to play elsewhere who would be undisputed stars for Les Bleus?

Not sure. I think it is a good problem to have, it just shows how much talent is going through your youth development system and Les Bleus do get the first shot at getting them into the A side.

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