Brazil-born Elkeson set for China's World Cup campaign
Brazil-born striker Elkeson is set to be called up to Marcello Lippi’s squad for China’s World Cup qualifiers, reports said on Monday (Aug 5), in what would be a landmark moment for football in the country.
The widely expected move would make the 30-year-old the first player without Chinese ancestry to represent his adopted country, as China strive to qualify for Qatar 2022.
Elkeson’s selection could be the start of a trend for perennial under-achievers China, who have begun naturalising overseas players despite the misgivings of many fans.
The most populous nation on the planet has reached the World Cup only once before, in 2002, but under football-loving President Xi Jinping it hopes to host and even win the tournament.
In June, London-born Nico Yennaris made his debut for Lippi’s side. The midfielder’s inclusion was widely welcomed by Chinese sports fans but unlike Elkeson, he is half-Chinese.
The respected Oriental Sports Daily and other Chinese media said Elkeson and Yennaris are on a list of players submitted to the Asian Football Confederation ahead of World Cup qualifiers.
Lippi’s side begin their campaign for Qatar 2022 away at the Maldives next month.
Elkeson, who last month returned to his former club Guangzhou Evergrande from Chinese Super League (CSL) champions Shanghai SIPG, is eligible for China having played in the country since 2013.
The forward, who has 13 CSL goals this season, has never represented the senior Brazilian side.
He could be followed by several other foreign players, with fellow China-based Brazilians Ricardo Goulart and Fernando both reportedly set to be naturalised, along with English defender Tyias Browning.
Although many other nations, notably World Cup hosts Qatar, call up players born in other countries, China had resisted doing so until now.
It is a controversial move and football commentator Zhan Jun hinted at public discord, writing to his 16 million followers on the Twitter-like Weibo: “Sigh, don’t know how the fans who care about Chinese football are feeling?
“I can’t get over it,” said Zhan, in a post which drew thousands of comments. - AFP