The Ghana Football Association, on Wednesday, announced that five players playing in the European leagues have switched nationality to represent the African country. This comes just four months before the Qatar World Cup.
The most prominent among the five players who have chosen to switch are Brighton right-back Tariq Lamptey, who has played for England Under-21s, and Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams, who has played one friendly for Spain.
Players switching nationalities is not an uncommon nor new practice.
In the 20th century, many stars turned out for multiple countries including Ferenc Puskas, Alfred di Stefano and Laszlo Kubala.
Until 2004, a player’s international team was determined by his citizenship. But after that, FIFA has reworked the criteria for eligibility to play for a nation.
Here are eight recent cases of football players opting to play for a national team after having received a cap for another country, just like Iñaki Williams, who played for Spain in an international friendly defeat against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016.
1. Declan Rice (England from Republic of Ireland)
Rice is currently one of the Premier League’s best defensive midfielders and is on the wish list of many European clubs.
The midfielder has thrived for the Three Lions since the switch and is a regular in their playing 11. – GETTY IMAGES
Much before his loyalty to his current club West Ham came into question, Rice had to deal with the complexity of his nationality.
The 23-year-old was eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland courtesy of his grandparents.
He went on to play for it in three international friendlies before deciding to switch over his national allegiance to England, where he was born and raised.
2. Wilfried Zaha
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who represents Ivory Coast at the international level, was initially eligible to play for England.
The former Manchester United player had turned out for the England senior national twice in friendlies, the last of them being in 2013.
Zaha has gone on to represent Ivory Coast 28 times and has scored five times. – GETTY IMAGES
In 2016, Zaha accepted the proposal of the Ivory Coast Football Federation and switched his international allegiance to the country he was born in, to Ivorian parents.
3. Diego Costa
Former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa was born in Brazil and had even donned the iconic yellow jersey of the Selecao twice in 2013, in friendlies.
But months after his Brazil debut, Costa expressed his desire to play for Spain and soon switched his allegiance to the same, despite knowing that he had a solid chance to turn up in the Brazil colours at home in the 2014 World Cup.
Costa, who would briefly be the most hated man in Brazil, would go on to play for Spain 24 times and score 10 goals, the last of them coming in the 2018 World Cup.
4. Geoffrey Kondogbia
Atletico Madrid’s midfield enforcer, Geoffrey Kondogbia had represented France at several junior levels 57 times and five times at the senior level, although in friendlies.
In 2018 he received an official call-up from the Central African Republic football team, due to his roots there.
Kondogbia took up the opportunity and has appeared for the African nation 13 times.
Kondogbia has also led Central African Republic as a captain since his switch from France. – GETTY IMAGES
5. Denzel Dumfries
Inter Milan right-back, Denzel Dumfries, made a big splash in the 2020 Euros for the Dutch national side.
But seven years ago, Dumfries had made his debut for Aruba, a constituent country of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean.
He was eligible for Aruba as his father was born there and then went on to play for the side in two friendlies in 2014.
Dumfries was later picked for various age division Dutch sides and became a senior Netherlands international in 2018, effectively completing his switch.
6. Munir El Haddadi
Once considered the future of Barcelona, Munir El Haddadi now plies his trade at fellow La Liga side Sevilla. Munir, born in Spain to a Moroccan father, initially opted to play for Spain and went on to do so for the age group and senior Spain sides.
But due to a dip in form which put him out of the reckoning for La Roja, the attacker applied to change his footballing nationality to Morocco in 2017.
This was rejected, initially by FIFA and then by the Court of Arbitration of Sports citing the cap he won for Spain in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
FIFA’s amendment of the eligibility rules in 2020 finally freed the 26-year-old to make the switch in 2021.
7. Steven Caulker
Former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur defender Steven Caulker currently represents Sierra Leone at the international level. Caulker though started out by playing for England’s under-19 and under-21 sides before making a solitary appearance for the senior side in 2013 against Sweden.
He even scored a goal on his debut in a game remembered better for an outrageous overhead-kick goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Steven Caulker, who represented Sierra Leone in the African Cup of Nations, in action for Southampton in the Premier League. (File Photo) – GETTY IMAGES
Steven Caulker became eligible for the African nation due to his Sierra Leonian paternal grandfather. He made the switch right before the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
8. Helder Costa
Leeds United winger, Helder Costa is one of the only three players in football history to have scored on their debuts for both the nations they have played for, with the other two being Alfredo Di Stefano and Jose Altafani.
Born in Angola, Costa moved to Portugal when he was a youngster and went on to represent the European nation across age groups. He debuted for it in a friendly against Scotland in 2018, where he opened the scoring.
Soon, he lost his foothold in the national squad, forcing him to look for opportunities in his birth country.
In March 2021 he received his first call-up for the African team and on November 12, he scored against Egypt on his second international debut to get himself along with Di Stefano and Altafani.