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Adopted Mason highlights question of allegiance

Katharine Merry | 13:30 UK time, Tuesday, 23 June 2009

"I have to keep working on my British accent," laughed Germaine Mason when I met up with him recently. His best Queen's English was heavily disguised in a thick Jamaican accent!

On 19 August last year, 25-year-old high-jumper Mason made a first time clearance of 2.34m to equal his personal best and grab an Olympic silver medal.

He stood proudly on the podium as the simulated wind in the flagpoles fluttered the red, white and blue of the union jack. Team GB cheered and Jamaica cheered too.

Germaine Mason with his union jack flag

Born in Jamaica in 1983 to a British father, Mason switched allegiance to Great Britain in 2006. He wasn't the first athlete to switch vests in sport and will definitely not be the last.

Germaine always talks for his love of Great Britain, with his mother and family living in London, and the pride he feels representing this nation.

I know his reason for choosing to represent GB was purely because he wanted to, but how many times do we see athletes jumping ship to represent a different nation for other reasons and is it right?

This is a complex debate and it opens up a big can of squirming worms!

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British sport has inherited many successful stars as a result of dual citizenship, like Greg Rusedski in tennis and cricketer Kevin Pietersen. I always remember hearing Rusedski was British when he won and Canadian when he lost.

Meanwhile, footballer Manuel Almunia of Arsenal, with no British family connections, will qualify for citizenship after living here for five years.

Do we truly embrace athletes that can be considered 'not one of us' because they have non-British accents? Does it really matter who an athlete competes for? Is it not the performance that counts?

Germaine Mason lives and trains in Jamaica with the likes of Asafa Powell, alongside coach Stephen Francis. He doesn't feel removed from the GB team and is in a great situation of having the support of the Jamaican people, who know deep down it's also a medal for them.

There are many reasons why athletes switch nationalities.

These include the following:

  • The athletes and their families will be financially better off.
  • They can't make their own national team, by not being good enough or because of other rules. One example is Dwain Chambers being banned from the Olympic Games by Team GB, hence the rumour of him being snapped up by a Middle East country for 2012.
  • Or maybe an athlete just wants to compete for another country because of family ties.


Kenya's Stephen Cherono became Qatar's Saif Shaheen

Zenebech Tola from Ethiopia and Stephen Cherono from Kenya are two high profile names in athletics. You may know them better as Maryam Jamal of Bahrain and Saif Shaheen of Qatar.

Jamal, the reigning World 1500m champion, and Shaheen, the world record holder for 3000m steeplechase, both changed alliances and both have very different stories.
Jamal was reportedly seeking political asylum.

She applied for citizenship in three different countries before Bahrain granted rapid citizenship, with conditions.

Shaheen caused a big stir, when in 2003 he changed his Kenyan shilling for the Qatar riyal, with reports there was a lot of money on offer. Who are we to judge an athlete's decision based on improving their lives and those of their families?

For many countries it is sometimes obvious that these switches are done on the basis of need and those countries are happy to take sporting names on board when they lack indigenous talent.

So when it is acceptable to change?

I presently see past the colour of an athlete's vest and cheer and applaud great sporting performances, including Germaine Mason jumping to an Olympic medal for Great Britain.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Thinking of it logically, we need as many good athletes as we can, to encourage young people to take up athletics. It happens both ways too, I seem to remember Fiona May was a promising Long Jumper, who decided to compete for Italy.
    So good athletes will want to come, and to leave.

    Another way to look at it, is many Nations are made up of people from all over the world....so the process of changing Nation in athletics, is just part of the greater process that happens in life.

    Many British people today, are first or second generation people who are the bloodline of immigrants from Europe, the Caribbean, India, and beyond.

    Nearly all Americans are not Native...they come from Europe, Africa, Asia, only a minority can truly say they are Native Americans.

    We are a nomadic species, and love to travel and go all over the world.
    This is just part of the same process, only involving athletes.

  • Comment number 2.

    My 12 year old son was born in the USA, his father is British and his mother is Chilean with Belgian citizenship. Who's vest should he pull on?

  • Comment number 3.

    To enter the olympics at football an England only teamis playing under a British flag. Ireland Wales and Scotland will not play under a British flag. This in my view is racism but as I anm English I am not allowed this view.
    I have lost all interest in sport I am not allowed to support England if I do its racist.
    Andy Murray is refered to as a Scot by the BBC yet all English players are British.
    The truth is sport is now a money making machine for the players. There is no such thing as supporting a nation anymore its just one big mess. Players carry any flag that makes them the most money they have no pride in doing anything else. Buy your flag and play your sport make lots of money.

  • Comment number 4.

    "I have lost all interest in sport I am not allowed to support England if I do its racist."

    What a lot of rot. Noone gives a monkeys if you support England. Scotland, Wales and N Ireland don't want to play for GB because they see it as a thin end of a wedge that will see the end of their respective FAs. You need to get out more.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I find the idea of nationhood in sport fairly difficult to understand. On one hand I enjoy watching England play cricket/rugby/football and I certainly want the Lions to win in SA, but at the same time it is not essential to my experience as a spectator - I am happy to watch a great game of tennis between a Spaniard and a Swiss man.

    Maybe the most important thing is that the athlete involved decides what belonging to a nation means to him/her. Some may live and breath to represent their country, even if they can't explain why. Others may compete just for themselves - and that is also a perfectly valid reason. I guess for most it is a mix of the two.

  • Comment number 7.

    As Katharine pointed out, double standards happened with Rusedski depending on his win-loss status. The media do exactly that with Andy Murray.

    He hasn't switched allegiance in any way shape or form, yet is a British winner & a Scottish loser.

    Fiona May, I believe, switched as she married an Italian. Unaware of Bernard Lagats reasoning for the USA switch but I'm guessing cash had to be involved.

    It can be for any number of reasons & if it benefits the athlete & country then its a good thing.

  • Comment number 8.

    At 4:38pm on 23 Jun 2009, diddymandan wrote:

    "Thinking of it logically, we need as many good athletes as we can, to encourage young people to take up athletics. It happens both ways too, I seem to remember Fiona May was a promising Long Jumper, who decided to compete for Italy."

    She married an Italian and lives in Italy. She speaks very good Italian too. Although if memory serves correct she was shunned by British athletics which prompted her to compete for Italy.

  • Comment number 9.

    If only that female cuban Triple Jumper got british citizenship huh? (Yamilé Aldama if no-one rembered...)

    Haven't heard her for a while but she was a consistent 15m jumper, and i don't see any young female triple jumpers coming to replace the big shoes of Ashia hansen.

  • Comment number 10.

    Regarding post #1, while "native American" is often used to refer to the original peoples, strictly it just means someone who was born there. In that case nearly all US citizens are "native". We should be wary of disputing someone's right to belong to a country because their family has only been there for a couple of generations or so. That could be seen as racist if applied to people in the UK.

    On the wider point, it does concern me if sports men and women are allowed to switch countries almost on a whim, but I'm not sure how it would be possible to draw up rules that would be both fair, and that all countries would abide by.

  • Comment number 11.

    Suggestions that people like Greg Rusedski are not as eligible to play for England as others is silly because he has British family background. The problem people had with Rusedski was the accent. People are loathed to admit it but Xenophobia does play a part. It's not racist in the most abhorant form but rather a knee jerk reaction to people who don't seem quite as British as most of us.

    People used to criticise Lennox Lewis as not being a legitimate 'Brit' despite the fact he was born in London and had British parents!! A teenage upbringing in Canada gave him the accent and he only opted to represent Canada at the Olympics because the UK Olympic powers that be turned him down for funding because at the time boxing wasn't an Olympic priority.

    Owen Hargreaves is the closest we've come to an out and out foreigner representing England (or the UK.) He would have been much more 'at home' playing for Canada or Germany but England offered an international career first so he took his chance. The fact he'd never even lived in the UK but was playing for England was quite a step for the selectors to take so frankly what is the problem with Almunia?

    Sure he's not British, not in any way but he's made the UK his home, he's married a British girl and once he's played for England it's not like he can change his mind. This should come down to who you want to represent. Just like a Gurkha fighting for the British Army or (back in the day) a German family being the Royal family.

    If you don't want Alumina or someone who is not British in a traditional sense playing for England or the UK, fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But if you don't want Almunia then you MUST also want kevin Pieterson out of the England team, ditto for Owen Hargreaves and Grahame Hick (back in the 90's.) Equally it's hard to see how you can justify having Capello as England coach. I say if someone is willing to give their entire international career to one country and they have some link, even if it's only residence then let them.

  • Comment number 12.

    When you live in a wealthy country it is easy to say athlete's shouldn't switch nationalities for money but it's difficult for athletes in poorer countries who can not ply their "trade" easily without switching nationalities. Better training better conditions & better money will make people move.

    Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't need to switch because Man U and now Real Madrid pay him huge sums. Different for athletes as the higher profile gets them to bigger events and bigger endorsements.

    An exceptional engineer can work in any country in the world & except for the occasional "brain drain" article no-one cares if they switch nationality

  • Comment number 13.

    God, half the countries in the world would be in trouble if they banned it. Canada is a country of immigrants, so they'd be virtually wiped out in sports.
    Might be able to argue the ins and outs, but in reality, you coudn't change it

  • Comment number 14.

    I lived in the Arabian Gulf for many years and at the time that African nationals were gaining Gulf Arab citizenship. We were joking about the "new" nationals winning competitions and one of the locals pointed out that the UK were possibly one of the first to allow nationality change when Zola Budd ran for the UK.
    It's debatable if those who "switched" to Gulf nationality will retain that status if their performance drops.

  • Comment number 15.

    I have to agree with Joe Green.

    If you are willing to dedicate your entire international career to one nation, regardless of whether the tie you have to that country is thin, then it should be allowed. We allow people of other nationality with even less ties to the country in to contribute to our society and sport is no different.

    The problem with Athletics is the ease in which an athlete can change the nationality they represent with the ability to do so even DURING the process of citizenship.

    I believe the only thing that I am against is a sporting professional representing a country when they have already represented another country - if anything else simply for the example that athlete can be setting to youngsters around the world. As we know, in a lot of sports this is against the rules but some sports are more lenient than others in allowing this to happen.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hmmm...as far as I'm concerned, if they have GBR by their name on the entry lists then they're British. If they have "Italia" on their vests(hello Fiona May) then there's no point rooting for them as it won't benefit our medal count.

    "Maybe" I'd make an exception for Dwain Chambers if someone like Bahrain snapped him up for 2012 but only if there were no GB vests in the final.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Joe_Green

    I think you'll find that Hargreaves was a Welsh U21 international long before England stepped in and "persuaded" him to change his flag of allegiance.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think that people should not be allowed to change allegiance because it suits. Countries put a lot of money into finding talented sportsmen - you don't just grab an 8-year old kid and say right you are going to be the next Usain Bolt, Kevin Pieterson, David Beckham, etc. South Africa would have put millions into the training of the 1000's of kids across the country to whittle them down to the 1 or 2 the could make the grade. However, a quick flash of the cash - and thats all it was - he left for greener pastures.
    Lets not kid ourselves no-one is leaving the UK to go and sprint for Kenya, play football for the Ivory Coast or cricket for South Africa. Why? Because the UK has discovered it is easier/cheaper to pay for atheletes/sportsmen once they are more or less developed than do it themselves.
    Mind you, having walked along the local high street its hardly surprising when you see 13 yr old kids with cankles, coke bellies & moobs....

  • Comment number 20.

    I always find it odd when people complain about Almunia's potential representation of England, when other countries do it far more regularly.

    Simone Perrotta (England to Italy) and Miroslav Klose (Poland to Germany) have dual nationality that could be argued, but Roger Guerriero and Eduardo da Silva are hardly the most Polish and Croatian names out there.

    Yet nobody here bats an eyelid, and those countries take them, yet when we potentially do it there's a minor uproar. It doesn't make sense.

    It happens a lot with African countries in football, it seems, in both directions - I believe Bassong is to represent Cameroon and Anichebe could be representing (or perhaps already does represent) Nigeria, and a large number of French internationals have African heritage. It's just part of the sport.

  • Comment number 21.

    Owen Hargreaves certainly does have ties to GB. His family emigrated before he was born, but his mum is Welsh, dad is English - and played for Bolton Wanderers youth team. His older brothers were born in GB (one in Wales, one in England). He's the only one of his family born outside GB.
    He said this about joining Man Utd: Its because its England and because Britain is where my family is. My parents and my brothers are in Canada, but the whole of my dads side of the family is in Bolton and my mums side is in Rhyl. I think some people dont realise that. They think Im half-German or something, but Im not. I was brought up by a British family. It just happened to be in Canada.
    Seems like he feels quite "at home" in an England shirt (when his knees aren't crocked!)

  • Comment number 22.

    Seb Coe should have switched countries in 1988. It would have sent the correct message to the UK Olympic selectors who so cruelly denied him the chance of winning his 3rd consecutive 1500m Gold.

  • Comment number 23.

    Thanks Katherine, I'm glad to hear you cheered on Germaine.

    Lennox and Greg both chose Britain to gain greater sponsorship, profile & for Lennox tv deals. Despite having represented Canada, both could argue genuine reasons to represent Britain, and both embraced it. No problems here.

    A cricketer like Andy Caddick, came across, stated his desire to qualify for England, made Britain his home and once he'd served his time was selected to play. Again fine by me.

    Almunia would only now choose England now out of opportunity and since he has no chance of playing for Spain, not because he has any feeling or desire to be English. I hope not.

  • Comment number 24.

    The British Olympic Association (BOA) was very happy to take Zola Bud when South Africa was banned. Say no more...

  • Comment number 25.

    I have a solution for post #3...let each UK country participate in their own right at the Olympics. There are many precedents in sport for Scotland, England, Wales and N. Ireland - football, curling, rugby, golf, cricket...the list goes on.

    And when we're told that we have to compete as GB, please remind these people that many non-independent nations participate at the Olympics: Gibraltar (UK territory), American Samoa (USA territory), Puerto Rico (US protectorate) etc etc.

    But, the unionist political parties and the British Olympic Association will not permit this and we all know why!

  • Comment number 26.

    In previous decades athletes competed as amateurs when they represented their country. The prize was personal glory and an opportunity to represent their country.
    In recent years they have become well paid professional athletes, for whom it does not matter at all which country they appear to represent. It has degenerated to a farce. They do not compete for their country, but for personal profit. It is a sick spectacle, with champions often achieving success only via use of drugs. I am not favourably impressed at all. I have lost my interest in athletics. Make it amateur again, with proper drug tests, and I might watch. For the moment, you can keep it.

  • Comment number 27.

    Justice_Cocklecarrot

    Why should athletes not have the chance to earn a living at their sport the same as footballers or any other elite sports participants? It is laughable that people have such a problem with Track and Field stars earning money - and relatively modest amounts when compared to other sports.

  • Comment number 28.

    For me, once you have chosen a country to represent for whatever reasons (residency, family or emotional ties), you should not be allowed to switch. That's only fair.

  • Comment number 29.

    In my view an athlete should represent the country of his/her birth, or the country in which they have been raised. Too many variants are open to abuse. An athlete should not be able to compete for another country if they have already competed for one; eg Fiona May competed for GB before her marriage, just because she is now married to an Italian and is resident there should not mean she can compete for Italy. Mara Yamaguchi (sorry, probably incorrect) is married to a Japanese man and resident in Japan but competes for GB, this is how it should be. They certainly should not be able to switch country simply for financial gain or for the advantage of the recruiting country such as Qatar.

  • Comment number 30.

    I am glad somebody has finally written about this complicated and most contentious of issues. The rules governing competing for a nation certainly seem to have become loose these days, and i suppose that is more to do with the mobility of population as well as governing bodies seeking to recruit the best individuals to represent them (within the competition rules, of course!) Then there is professionalism, but thats a whole other story.....
    In my own preferred sport (Rugby League) we have some good examples f how loose the criteria has become, none more so than Craig Gower, Aussie born and bred and played for NSW and the Kangaroos and now plying his trade in France and representing Italy in Rugby Union, having qualified through a grandparent.
    At the end of the day for me, once you have represented a country then you are disqualified from any other in any sport (Sorry Dwayne, Craig), If you are resident and have citizenship then you qualify (So pull on an England shirt Manuel after you collect your passport), and finally you should have some emotional attachment to the nation you represent, though this is down to the inner honesty of the individual, which is where this may all fall down.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think it should be started over where you only get to represent one country, the country of your citizenship. If you need to change country for whatever reason then you have to appeal and apply to take your case to the IOC or some other governing body that isn't as corrupt. No changing countries for reasons such as your own country didn't select you. I think the commonality of dual citizenships in Europe and the UK magnifies the problem and that there's got to be some sort of vetting solution rather than the current mess. Improving your life due to safety concerns or refugee status is one thing, getting married and obtaining a new citizenship for something like that should be allowed, but jumping to the mideast or to my home country of the US for more money should be booted. The IOC has billions in cash, why don't they help out the athletes who make them so successful?

  • Comment number 32.

    I find this a very interesting topic. For many years before I migrated and certainly since, I have wondered why Great Britain have had an advantage over other sporting nations. Why, in the Olympic Games are they allowed to compete as FOUR nations under one banner, yet in the Commonwealth Games, the four home nations compete separately.
    I guess, if the truth be known, "Great Britain" would certainly not win the medals they have usurped in the last couple of Olympics.

  • Comment number 33.

    born in kenya, a nation having a proud tradition of producing world class long distance athletes, i feel athletes switcing nationality for cash are not patriots but traitors. these are people who put money before country. the example of cherono, now shaheen said, i am sure would have made money making appereances in international events even while representing kenya. to the likes of him i say good riddance.

  • Comment number 34.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to change their nationality. I think that includes athletes.

  • Comment number 35.

    This is no-brainer for Poms. If you had to rely on your own 'talent' you'd never win anything. 2005 Ashes victory? It was Australia vs the rest of the world. You 'beating' us at the last Olympics? The English didn't beat us - take out the Scots and we flogged you again. And before anyone says there are few 'genuine' Aussies (i.e. Aboriginies)representing Australia, we are - like Britain - a nation with a rich history of migration (and yes exploitation, but that's for another blog). The difference between Aus and you poms is you rely almost exclusively on mercaneries and the vanquished (Scots, for e.g. not to mention my long lost cousins of Kernow) for your sporting 'success'.

  • Comment number 36.

    Trust an Aussie to have no fact in hand. You seem to have forgotten Noriega and Rathbone in the rugby, with no end of island boys, the huge amount of eastern europeans in pole vaulting and weightlifting that appear to be representing Australia, plus one unhinged tennis player. I think you will find this has happened as long as sport/war has been around. Do you not want to see the best sports people at the biggest events?

  • Comment number 37.

    I think "Spring Break" is just winding us up.


    Then again he could have eaten too much vegemite....

  • Comment number 38.

    In referance to the tosh that fedupwithelvs has said i feel compelled to write this. Tim Henman was always labled ENGLISH and not British and Andy Murry is labled British not scottish. Not sure where you have been living for the last decade or so. The British press seem to suggest that England are going to win, or should win tournament they enter. This hype goes along way to Scottish people supporting the other teams. As for athletes changing nationality, if i were Dwain Chambers i would swith. He made a mistake and is now being treaded differently from other who did the same. Did our shot putter not get cought cheating? Yes. Is he back on the circut. Yes, yet no one talks about him all the time. Perhaps because he is not world class like dwain so goes under the radar.

  • Comment number 39.

    Firstly, a simple point, Great Britain has been a single entity, ruled from Westminster for a very long time, longer than numerous other countries have existed, even ruling a few other countries dotted all over the world until fairly recent times ;).
    As for changing nationality to suit circumstances, even if most think it morally suspect to do it purely for $$$, there is little that can be done to prevent it.
    Athletics may have a 'problem' with people switching allegiance, but just look at football, there are currently 30+ Brazilians playing for an adopted country simply because these players know that they'll never be good enough to represent the nation of their birth.
    Even FIFA chair Sepp Blatter is now worried about "the invaders from Brazil" http://www.footballcupleague.com/2009/01/fifa-president-not-happy-with-brazilians-playing-for-other-national-teams%E2%80%A6/

  • Comment number 40.

    With responses like Noelsh's, it looks like you've stooped to recruiting Americans to comment on your blogs. Good work Alfie.

    (Although we're still bitter about 2005 - regardless of the 5-0 a couple of years ago)

  • Comment number 41.

    Very good, but if I was American I would probably be turning out for Australia in a sport they dont stand a chance in

    Having been in Oz for the 5-0 whitewash and expecting a similar thing to happen in england, I would happily have half the indidan and pakistan team turning out, if it meant getting a win.

  • Comment number 42.

    You underestimate your weather.

    Seriously though, I am expecting us to win, but it won't be 5-0. And it will be because of our (occasionally) brittle middle order, not the weather.

    Back to the original argument though, surely it comes down to migrants vs mercenaries, doesn't it? Panesar, obviously fair enough, Pietersen, I wouldn't have thought so.

  • Comment number 43.

    Can I retract that last comment at all (no.42)?

  • Comment number 44.

    To redybirth - I am also a Kenyan. I take it given that you are posted your comment at 0130am you live in Nairobi and have access to a PC and internet. This, as I am sure you know, is a very exclusive privilege - the likes of which not many outside Nairobi and Mombasa have. You also know that for the most part, Cherono and many of Kenya's track stars normally start off in poverty. It is therefore insensitive to suggest that such Cherono is not patriotic. If athletics had clubs like football offering high salaries then no athletic will feel compelled to switch nationalities. Unfortunately, our athletes, despite being the VERY BEST in the world, do not get the support (financial or otherwise) that they deserve. Cherono is no different from Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. He, unlike the others, has no way of earning from his talent without switching nationalities. That is a tough fact that we simply have to accept. We have no right to label a man a traitor unless we have been faced with his choices.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think the only rule should be that if you have represented one country at international level, you cannot go on to represent another country.

  • Comment number 46.

    The bottom line is, everyone is entitled to swith allegiance to another country. After that, however, no further nationality switches should be condoned, or allowed. There will be a variety of reasons given for the first change, most likely all valid, but it would end there.

    Problem solved.

  • Comment number 47.

    i think changing nationalist no problem before success after that is bad.

  • Comment number 48.

    wanna make some people really cry? mention the New Zealand Rugby Union are really bad at grabbing young talent from their poorer neighbours.

  • Comment number 49.

    Nice blog again Kath.
    What is good too hear is that you, as a fellow athlete, supports Mason and quite rightly so. I presume all the other athletes in the team feel the same?
    The world is such now that people move around all over the place and therefore nationalities are a plenty for people.
    Many sports 'steal' many sporting stars to make them better.
    I do not have a problem with it as long as that athlete shows some allegiance and desire.
    I don't like these Far East countries buying athletes all the time....when is it going to end?

  • Comment number 50.

    I have said it before will say it again, " If it is good enough for the immigrants to work for you, its good enough that they play for you."

    Brain drain or muscle drain? I fail to spot the difference.

  • Comment number 51.

    Fiona May, I believe, switched as she married an Italian.

    -------

    She switched because the Italians were willing to give her funding so she could become a full-time pro with a good coach and decent facilities in Italy.

  • Comment number 52.

    Quite surprised no one has mentioned Jackie's Army and the Republic of Ireland team that overcame Bobby Robson's England in Stuttgart at Euro '88 with more mercenaries than the foreign legion (while arguably the best players were in fact Irish save for the goal scorer Ray Houghton). Must by some sort of myopia. Always amazes me that people in general get the fundamental principles of geography and politics confused. Great Britain comprises England, Scotland and Wales; anyone born on the island is British and there is no escaping that fact. For the United Kingdom add Northern Ireland. Anyone born on the island of Ireland is Irish; an incontrovertible fact. Question is how can any one from Belfast represent Team GB without changing the facts or trading allegiances?? British and Irish Lions the obvious riposte.

  • Comment number 53.

    No one gave any advice with regards to my son...
    The point is citizenship, isn't it?
    He currently has American, British and Belgian citizenship and could get Chilean tomorrow if we applied. We recently moved from Australia where he could have applied for citizenship too (but I wouldn't let him, you've got to draw the line somewhere haven't you?).
    If you have citizenship you can represent.
    Sporting bodies may put some restrictions like FIFA do, but for them it's easier because of the team nature of football (fine, move countries, change your citizenship, but once you have represented a country at senior level you're stuck with them for life) and is designed, as I understand it, to stop the likes of say England offering money and citizenship to the Brazilian team (it's the only way England will win the WC!). Athletics however is, generally an individual realm and putting restrictions on individuals is potentially fraught with legal difficulties. This is, I guess, why the IOC (or whoever it is that sets the rules for athletics) seem to be more accepting.
    Going back to my son, well he tends to see himself as American because that's his country of birth, and if it were down to me I would probably side with him and make the country of birth, regardless of citizenship, the governing factor.

  • Comment number 54.

    WWWorker.
    What a choice your son has. It is interesting to hear he would side with the US as he was born there.
    Making the country of birth, I'm thinking of for people who work board and maybe stationed in another country etc, may not be the best way in my opinion. Although I can think of stories where people, including athletes, who have their children in a certain country to gain citezensip.
    Your son obviously has feelings and good memories of the US? Or does he just think that the country of birth makes his choice the right decision?
    I have put this blog topic around the office and like this blog..... have my section opinionated!

  • Comment number 55.

    I believe that sportsmen and women should be permitted to choose to compete for any country they feel they most want to represent. There should be consequences however. You should not be permitted to choose to compete for another nation at a later stage simply because this suits you. A nationality is not simply a travel document or a financial incentive. It is supposed to be your personal identity.

    I believe that if an athlete (in any sport) is brought up and developed in one nation, that is the nation that should get first option on that athlete. After all, that is the country that most invested in making that athlete a success in his/her field. If that nation has not picked that athlete to compete for them at any level by a certain age (i.e. 23), that athlete should be allowed to choose in accordance with his/her conscience.

    If that athlete is of immigrant descent and feels that he or she does not wish to represent the nation that he or she was born, brought up and developed prior to their 23rd birthday, this is their right. There should be consequences however. Clearly that individual does not wish to represent that country because he or she feels that country is not the country that he/she owes any allegiance to. As such, their nationality should be revoked. If they are too good to represent the country that provided them with the opportunity to be successful, they should not continue to be a citizen. Quid pro quo.

  • Comment number 56.

    The comment about my nation (Ireland) is a good one.

    In my opinion, we threw away a real chance at developing football in the country for a cheap quarter final appearance.

    It's no coincidence that the truly great players we have produced have been native Irish lads (Keane, Best, Brady, O'Leary, O'Neill and many others) whilst the mediocre - and in some cases absolute garbage - players have been foreign born (McCarthy, Cascarino, Townsend etc).

    It was a huge mistake to change the rules, but then what can you expect from the FAI ? In the words of Bishop Brennan, "they couldn't organise a nun shoot in a nunnery".

  • Comment number 57.

    Like has been pointed out over and over again in this thread in various ways. The reason most athletes leave is financial.
    Fiona May went to Italy for better funding and facilities.
    Germaine Mason came to Britain for better funding and facilities.
    Many Kenyans have left Kenya to run for better money and facilities elsewhere, both in the arab world and in Europe.

    It shows that athletes are humans deep down, and need money to survive just like everyone else. People are harder on athletes, for they are supposted to be representing flags etc etc.
    However thousands of Brits move to Spain, Australia, South Africa, America, The Caribbean every year, and thousands of new arrivals come to the UK...often from these places.
    Though people may question if they want new immigrants...they never question the reasons people leave...often financial and for a better life.

    Athletes are no different. You may be thinking too deeply if you think otherwise.

  • Comment number 58.

    The underlying issue may be indicated by the convoluted nature of some of the blog contributions; it isn't so much ' What do we feel about this?' as 'who REALLY cares?'

    Sport is a business and businesses buy and sell people across borders, and not just the cockle pickers but the CEOs and CFOs---the idea of a 'national identity' is just an idea like many others that used to work, but doesn't any more.... The brand supplies the money for the athletes, and often the rationale for the nationality.

    National identity is part of an interconnected set of ideas that have passed their 'sell by date' --- the mass media (including the BBC) don't accept this and prefer we all remain 'orthodox' (because the compelling narratives are otherwise a bit more difficult to identify and pursue), obviously the nation states don't accept it either..but we can't QUITE swallow it anymore...History doesn't stand still and the nation state is heading down the river.

    Jack Charlton (to football historians) may be seen as the Charles Darwin of national identity----- in the sense that after 'Big Jack', National Identity could never , ever be the same again.

    I look forward to the day when Saudi Arabia can buy Kaka to play for their National team, and Usain Bolt discovers his Indian grandparents so he can run for them in the 2020 Olympics ....

  • Comment number 59.

    I accept fully anyone with a British parent (and by British I mean English, Scottish or Welsh) - so Hargreaves, Rusedski, Pieterson and others are 100% entitled to represent GB or one of its consituents as a blood right. If a parent is British, the child is British. To say or think otherwise is to suggest that one of their parents is of less importance than the other. Ridiculous.

    I don't agree whatsoever with people just switching allegience through residency. Your instinctive love of a country comes through your parents, your family - that's who instill the deep and permanent affection and understanding of a nation, its culture, history and people.

    A foreigner is never going to truly care about representing GB just by living in London or wherever for the requisite number of years. I could never embrace a foreigner with no British parents switching to my flag for their personal convenience.

  • Comment number 60.

    Townsend was class.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hi all.
    As expected this topic is raising lots of different opinions, as it did last night on our latest London Calling programme.
    Some words have been written like it is 'good to encourage young people to take up athletes, so let the athletes compete where they are happy' and the bottom line is, the world is such a melting pot now that it is full of people, and of course athletes who are people too!, who will sometimes have more than one choice of who to compete for.
    It is what it means to the athletes and their lives I personally always try and bring it back to.
    From my sport of Athletics a few posts have mentioned several athletes.
    Bernard Lagat and Wilson Kipketer are 2 more athletes who left Kenya many years ago for the USA and Denmark for instance. They did so after studying in the country for many years, falling in love with the country and a lady, hence they feel great allegiance to there adopted countries after spending many many years there.
    Then of course there are athletes who move over 'just to get in the team', those that aren't good enough or do not have the opportunity in their back yard.
    All sports face this issue now and only last night on the programme we were talking to a volleyball player who is now in TeamGB from Canada, because of his British Dad.

  • Comment number 62.

    I actually went to high school with Germaine and was somewhat saddened by the fact that he switched allegiance. I was sadden because so much great athlete from Jamaica leave for other countries to compete, especially the US, UK and Canada. I wonder if at the end of the day these countries really consider it 'their medal'. In the same breathe I support Germaine Mason because he is a nice person and a good athlete...

    Jamaica, One Blood

  • Comment number 63.

    I have a son, born in England, who speaks with an English accent, a daughter born in England, who speaks with an American accent and a daughter who is by birth American, who may well grow up with an English accent if we move back to the UK within the next few years. We live in a mobile society and should accept this, my daughter is proud to be English and proclaims in a broad American drawl "I'm not American, I'm English!".

  • Comment number 64.

    Annekh23:

    You are right we are a very mobile society! It goes to show that people and children especially have their opinions on nationality moulded by maybe not just the society they grow up in, but more by the culture of the people they surround themselves with.

  • Comment number 65.

    Just a correction to what someone said - and as verified in the article:
    "Germaine Mason lives and trains in Jamaica with the likes of Asafa Powell, alongside coach Stephen Francis."

    Walk good.

  • Comment number 66.

    this is not a hard topic you play for the country you were born in ! simple really not switching for political reasons or because your not good enough for your birth country

  • Comment number 67.

    fedupwithelves get your facts right ireland are not in BRITAIN get it right mate northern ireland is part of united kingdom thats it full stop

  • Comment number 68.

    I totally disagree with the rules. You should represent your country of birth, or if you are moved when VERY young, you can choose to represent the country you are brought up in. Just because you are a citizen of a certain country for X amount of time, should not give you the right to represent that country at any level.

    As a welshman, the fact that Vinny Jones represented our nation at football, because his grandfather was welsh, was a complete joke.

  • Comment number 69.

    this may be a little late for this blog but here goes. my son Ben is GB volleyball captain. along with the others in the squad they'd worked tirelessly to improve in a sport that has little support on these shores (including the recent reductiuon in funding). As much as i'd love to see a GB team made up solely from british born players it isn't going to happen in the time scale. having seen haldane play it's clear he brings a lot of experience to the team and can only help our players to step up to the levels they need to perform at the giddy heights of Olympic volleyball. we don't live in a perfect sporting world I'm afraid. I want Ben and his fellow players to enjoy that Olympic time and if having haldane in the squad helps then go for it. Good luck to them all. Pipesy

  • Comment number 70.

    I think Germaine Mason is also able to compete for Britain because of his father being born in the uk

  • Comment number 71.

    I think there is a dangerous trend of Kenyans and Ethiopians being adopted by Bahrain and Qatar.

    What will happen in the future ? Half the Kenyan and Ethiopian teams tranferring over to Qatar and Bahrain ?

    It's a discredit to Kenya and Ethiopia.

  • Comment number 72.

    There are two issues to consider. The rights of the individual and interests of the national governing body.

    On the first, if I can make more money to raise my family in comfort and security, or if it gives me a better chance of the experience of a lifetime such as the Olympics, or if I "feel" I belong in nation X despite being born in nation Y and raised in nation Z, on accounts of the fact that my ancestry is X-ian, or any other combination of X,Y and Z, then my rights to chose my sporting nationality should be respected. Then, arguably upheld. And if you feel like a Kiwi when playing Rugby League at 19, but like an Englishman when playing Union at 30, is it not possible you are being honest? Times change.

    On the intersts of the national governing body, it exists to compete at the highest level posible, but also to nurture talent. Is talent best nurtured by giving the opportunity to an inferior but native athlete, or by picking an imported athlete who will win and be a better role model and magnet for sponsorship? That decison is for the governing body.

    The world governing body however has obligations to every national body and to the sport, so may have reason to restrict movement...or may not.

    So on specifics. How long does Almunia have to live here before he is considered British? If a 19 yr-o was born Nigeria of Nigerian parents, but has lived here since age 2, is he not British? So where is the cut off? Lets be honest, some of the views here are influenced by racism. Almunia has a foriegn name, Germaine Mason has foriegn face and accent. Kevin Peitersen looks British and his name sounds British, despite neither being true.

    Personally, I defend the right of anyone to seek out a better life and the right of any UK governing body to buy up talent from where it can find it. And I idolise West Hams finest son, Lennox Lewis.

 

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