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24 February 2024

FIFA asked to get tough on naturalised players

By Reuters

FIFA need to toughen the rules on naturalised players, Zambia coach Herve Renard said on Saturday as they prepared to face Equatorial Guinea whose entire team were born abroad. 

"I think FIFA has to control everything," Renard told reporters at the African Nations Cup, where Burkina Faso have also been involved in naturalisation controversy. 

"I would be very disappointed if, in 10 years' time, I saw a national team fielding five players who didn't have any connection with that country." 

"I think it is a shame if it happens in the future and I ask FIFA to be very tough about this." 

Equatorial Guinea's line-up against Libya and Senegal consisted of 11 players born outside the country, a mix of Spanish-based players, who qualify through their parents, and naturalised players from Brazil, Liberia, Cameroon and Cape Verde. 

There has been controversy over whether the naturalised players have lived in the country for five years as required by FIFA rules. Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea have already qualified for the quarter-finals after winning their first two games. 

Renard, whose team need a draw in Sunday's Group B match to qualify for the quarter-finals, added: "I don't know the case of the Equatorial Guinea players." 

"I don't know if some are born here, if their parents were born here, and I don't want to know, it's not my problem," added the Frenchman. 

"We will play against the Equatorial Guinea national team and we have to beat them, that's all." 

He said Equatorial Guinea's world ranking of 151 did not reflect the current side. 

"The ranking is not with the same players as they had before; now they brought in some new players, plus the support of the country, so now they are improving a lot." 

Burkina Faso's place at the tournament was thrown into jeopardy two weeks before the start by a protest from qualifying opponents Namibia. 

The Namibians said that Burkina had fielded Cameroon-born defender Herve Zengue against them when he was ineligible and took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). 

The protest was rejected but Burkina left Russian-based Zengue out of their squad. 

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said before the tournament that teams were obeying the rules and that extra checks were unnecessary and impractical.