Premier league football player Wilfried Zaha has submitted a request to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to swap his international allegiance from England to his birth country, the Ivory Coast. According to the BBC, Zaha who plays as a winger for Crystal Palace FC, was able to make the switch even though he has played twice for England’s national men’s football team in friendly matches against Sweden and Scotland.
FIFA stipulates that a player is eligible to switch national allegiance if he has only competed in friendly matches.
A press release issued by the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) on Sunday announced Zaha’s decision:
The Ivorian-English attacking midfielder Wilfried Zaha has chosen to play for the Elephants, under the colors of the Ivory Coast, his country of origin.
In the presence of his father, Augustin Sidy Diallo (president of the FIF) and Michel Dussuyer (Ivory Coast coach), he signed at the bottom of the demand to change his sporting nationality addressed to FIFA.
Career in Europe
The 24-year-old was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, but he moved to England with his family at the age of 4.
Zaha signed his first deal, a two-year professional contract with Palace in April of 2010.
He later signed a five-year contract with Manchester United for an initial fee of more than $12 million in 2013, but he remained on loan at Palace until the end of the season, helping them return to the Premier League.
After an unsuccessful 2013-2014 season with Manchester United, Zaha returned to Palace in August 2014 on a season-long loan and then re-joined the club on a permanent basis in February of 2015.
Zaha’s switch of nationality is probably due to the fact that for much of his time with the English national team, the young winger felt that he did not get the playing time he deserved.
Reacting to the news of Zaha’s switch, his current coach, Alan Pardew, said he believed he had been “pushed forward, probably by his agent or people around him” into making the switch, adding that he understood his frustration at being unable to hold a starting place in the England national team lineup.
“There aren’t many other English players who can beat players like he does in the Premier League. Some do, but they’re not English,” Pardew added.
Zaha is expected to play for the Ivory Coast in next year’s African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
He joins a short list of African football players who have played for multiple countries, including Morocco’s Belgium-born stars Nacer Chadli and Mehdi Carcela-González, Algerian-born Rachid Mekhloufi, who also played for France, and Gordon Hodgson, an English footballer born in South Africa.