China mulls naturalization of foreign football players

By Kou Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-25 0:38:01

Lack of dual nationality, FIFA rules hinder realization of idea: experts

Chinese government agencies have discussed the possibility of naturalization of foreign football players in China, but experts said it was "impractical" and could dampen the country's football development.

"We have discussed naturalization of foreign football players with public security departments," Zhang Jian, vice-chairman of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), told the China Sports Forum on Saturday, the China Youth Daily reported.

Zhang did not reveal any details about the result of the discussion, only saying that the naturalization of foreign players would come down to multiple issues related to law and population management and was "a sensitive topic."

The naturalization of foreign players, which involves China's law and regulations, is still being studied and discussed by relevant government departments, said CFA President Cai Zhenhua, adding that it couldn't be accomplished immediately, the Tianjin Daily reported in December 2015.

Chinese football players' performance has constantly disappointed fans and observers, who believe that introducing foreign players will improve the competitiveness of the Chinese national football team.

Although Chinese football clubs are welcoming outstanding foreign football players, it will be difficult for these players to represent the national team due to stringent rules of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and China's strict naturalization policies, experts said.

The FIFA rules stipulate that foreign players need to assume nationality of a country before they can represent it in international competitions.

"Even Chinese green cards are quite hard to obtain for foreigners, let alone citizenship," Ma Dexing, deputy editor of Changsha-based Titan Sports, told the Global Times.

China's green card policy was introduced in 2004, but only 4,752 people have received permanent resident status as of 2012, the Xinhua News Agency reported in 2014.

According to the regulations on examination and approval of permanent residence of aliens in China, only outstanding football players can get a chance to become a Chinese citizen.

Another problem is that the country does not recognize dual nationality. "Outstanding players may find it hard to give up their original nationality just for representing the Chinese team," Liu Guofu, an expert on immigration law from the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times.

And even if they are willing to give up their original nationality, FIFA's stringent rules will make the naturalization impractical, Ma said.

Based on the FIFA rules, a foreign player needs to live continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 within China to be able to represent the country in international competitions.

Meanwhile, introducing foreign players may dampen China's football development, as it will not solve fundamental problems, such as relatively slack management of the industry, Ma said.

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