Festus Abu, St. Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund’s rising star Manuel Akanji could be gearing up for a battle with the Switzerland Football Federation following comments by the AFA General Secretary Alex Miescher suggesting the country would review its policy on players with dual citizenship.
Miescher joined the hot debate whether in the country whether the national team having many players with foreign roots truly reflect the country after the Red Crosses were sent packing from Russia 2018 World Cup after losing 1-0 to Sweden in their second round fixture at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 3.
And Swiss-born Nigerian AKanji, who is one of the revelations of Russia 2018, has subtly indicated that he is not ready to deny his Nigerian roots for the sake of playing for Switzerland by publicly identifying with the Super Eagles.
No fewer than 12 of the players who played for Switzerland in Russia were either born abroad or have immigrant parents.
Granit Xhaka and XherdanShaqiri , who are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, were fined by FIFA for making hand gestures of an Albanian national symbol to celebrate goals in the 2-1 defeat of Serbia on July 6.
“That incident shows that there’s a problem. We have to ask ourselves: do we want dual nationals?,” Miescher was quoted by Tages-Anzeiger as saying.
He said the federation could offer its support programme for young players only to those who drop their second nationality.
The federation, who distanced themselves from Miescher’s comments, however said they had only been considering getting young players to give up their second nationality when joining the national team training programme.
The development has elicited a groundswell of criticism with football fans in the country taking to Twitter to make biting comments about the move to stop players with dual citizen from representing Switzerland.
Versatile Switzerland defender Akanji, who was born to a Nigerian father and a Swiss mother, has added fuel to the fire by posting his picture on his Instagram page wearing the Super Eagles’ jersey in Ibiza, Spain, where he has been holidaying since the Swiss crashed out of the World Cup.
The 22-year-old wrote, “There were so many emotions during this World Cup, ups and downs, but in the end I‘m really proud and happy to have played my first World Cup. I hope it wasn‘t the last one, thank you Switzerland for the support. We will come back stronger.”
Although Akanji did comment on the issue of dual citizenship, he has been under criticism in the social media and Swiss press for his Instagram post.
Some of his critics have questioned his loyalty, though they condemn the football federation for its move.