New FIFA ruling good news for African national teams

The one-cap one nationality rule has been changed by FIFA’s Technical Working Group (TWG) regarding players who desire to play for another nation should they want to pledge allegiance to fulfil a personal desire or to enhance their careers at international level.

For years, African players, many of whom were born in Europe and earned caps for the countries of the birth by virtue of their parents migrating, were forced by FIFA legislation to represent one national football association, after earning one cap.

However, the global football governing body has now amended the ruling, making it possible for players to represent the countries of their parents or grandparents’ birth, but only under particular terms and conditions.

According to the FIFA TWG:

“A player who, under the terms of art. 5, is eligible to represent more than one association on account of his nationality, may play in an international match for one of these associations only if, in addition to holding the relevant nationality, he fulfils at least one of the following conditions.”

  • He was born on the territory of the relevant association;
  • His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant association;
  • His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant association;
  • He has lived on the territory of the relevant association for at least five years.

Such agreements shall be lodged with and approved by the Council.”

And to acquire another nationality, FIFA has also placed certain regulations to ensure that you represent the national association of your choice, within the confines of the terms, should you have left another association.

  • He was born on the territory of the relevant association;
  • His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant association;
  • His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant association;
  • He has lived on the territory of the relevant association.

Associations changes are only allowed once, and bouncing from national team to national team is prohibited.

In addition, you will only be eligible to change if you are 21-year-old or younger, have three caps or less at international level, and if you have never played at an ‘A’ international tournament i.e. FIFA World Cup, European Championship, or an Africa Cup of Nations, etc.

This will prevent unfortunate situations much like that of Munir El Haddadi. After earning his first and only Spanish cap in a 2016 European Championship qualifier against Macedonia, the Sevilla striker and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation made contact with FIFA regarding a potential change of allegiance to play for Morocco in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The request was denied, a month before the global sporting showpiece began, rendering a career for Spain highly unlikely and denying him the promise of becoming a fully-fledged international.

Click Here to read the full seven-page document.