x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Identity crisis over rights to the Azzurri shirt

When Cesare Prandelli, the Italy head coach, selected Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who was born in Argentina, he reignited the "foreigner" debate in Italy.

Cesare Prandelli, the Italy head coach, continues to stir up controversy with some of his selections. When Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, the Roma striker, was called up late last week, Cesare Maldini, one of Prandelli's predecessors, objected.

"Prandelli's stance on foreigners was already clear when he picked Thiago Motta," said Maldini, "but I ask how a striker like Osvaldo, after only a few games with Roma, can earn the Azzurri shirt so easily?"

The oriundi, the so-called "foreigners", have become an issue for Prandelli. Osvaldo is the fourth to be called up in the past two years. Like Inter Milan's Motta, who represented Brazil at youth level but has Italian grandparentage, Osvaldo was born and raised in South America - Argentina in his case - but, unlike Motta, Osvaldo had already represented the Azzurri at Under 21 level.

The issue is important. If international football becomes too much about recruitment, and less about some sort of shared sense of patriotism between fans and participants, it loses its wider appeal.

In fact, the same day Maldini was objecting to Osvaldo's promotion, Jamie Carragher, the former England defender, was telling a radio station that having a foreign head coach, as England do in Fabio Capello, was "cheating".

In which case, there could be several "cheats" at Euro 2012, including the two countries apart from Italy - Ireland are the other - with Italians in charge. Just like Paraguay at the 2002 World Cup, when their coach was one Cesare Maldini.