Footballers have so far taken advantage of FIFA’s rule change that allows players to switch their national allegiance, starting a new career after having previously represented another country at junior level. Only one has had his application turned down, the Russian-born Murad Mogomedov who sought to take up an offer to play for Israel.
Many countries, including Ireland, Wales, Australia, Venezuela and a host of African nations, have benefited from the rule. England, Slovenia, Uganda and South Africa are among countries awaiting the outcome of recent applications.
The policy has allowed players such as former England under-21 captain Ben Thatcher to become a Welsh international and Tim Cahill of Everton, who played a few minutes as a teenager for Western Samoa, to be able to represent Australia, where he was born.
The first country to take advantage of the new rule was Algeria, who have a big emigrant community living in France and had long sought a change to the FIFA rules to take advantage of this reservoir of talent.
FIFA’s decision to loosen the rules has helped many African nations to recruit top-class talent although its benefits have not been as marked as initially anticipated.
There are many other footballers who could revive their international careers with a switch of allegiance but have yet to take advantage of the rule.
But those making an impact include former Hertha Berlin and Borussia Dortmund central midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has scored a vital goal in the World Cup for his new country Ghana after having previously played for Germany at under-21 level.
Kevin-Prince Boateng (born 6 March 1987) is a German-born Ghanaian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Serie A club Milan, in a co-ownership deal with Genoa.Boateng is also a member of the Ghanaian national team, having earned six caps and scoring one goal.
A player with dual German-Ghanaian nationality, Boateng is a central midfielder. He has been described as having “skill and pace complemented by advanced tactical awareness and a powerful physique.” He started his career with the youth club Reinickendorfer Füchse, and then signed for Hertha BSC.
Boateng was with Hertha from 1 July 1994 when he was just seven years old to 31 July 2007. After emerging from the youth team set-up, he played for the reserves for two seasons. He was twice sent off, but he won a call-up to the first team squad in the 2005–06 season. He made his debut against Eintracht Frankfurt in the second round of the 2005–06 Bundesliga season, being brought on at the start of the second half. He impressed during that game, and was on the fringe of the first team from then on, despite barely being 18 years old. Boateng continued his rise, and started his first Bundesliga game in the 2–2 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 14th round of the Bundesliga season.
Boateng identifies Pelé and Rivaldo as his role models, occasionally imitating the Brazilian duo with crowd-pleasing moments. His love of playing to the gallery draws applause, but has also attracted a fair share of criticism too. The Germany Under-19 coach, Uli Stielike, said about him, “At senior level, Kevin will need to wean himself off the world of fantasy football.” He has since cut down on those antics.
On 27 July 2006, Boateng was awarded the Fritz Walter Gold Medal in the Under-19 category. The medal is awarded on the basis of performances for the German Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 national teams. A jury consisting of German Football Association (DFB), youth coaches, and members of the DFB Board, put Boateng top of the poll. Sport director Matthias Sammer and DFB coach Horst Hrubesch honored the talented player with the gold prize winner award and the 20,000 Euro prize-money at the Stadtbauraum, Gelsenkirchen in Germany on 16 August 2006. Boateng also won the Bronze Medal Award in the Under-18 category in 2005.
Boateng signed for Tottenham Hotspur in July 2007, for a reported fee of £5.4million.He had his first start in the Premier League on 3 November against Middlesbrough, after which a series of further first team performances followed. With the departure of Tottenham manager Martin Jol, and the arrival of Juande Ramos and several high profile players, Boateng was pushed out of the team and into the reserves. Boateng made his appearance under new manager Harry Redknapp in Spurs’ 4–2 home win against Liverpool in the fourth round of the League Cup and his first league appearance of the 2008–09 season in Tottenham’s 1–0 home defeat to Everton in November 2008.
Boateng was loaned out during the January transfer window of 2009 to Borussia Dortmund for the remainder of the season.Boateng returned to Tottenham at the end of the 2008–09 season. His last game for Spurs came as a substitute in the clubs 5–1 Football League Cup win over Doncaster Rovers in August 2009.
Boateng joined Portsmouth for the 2009–10 season, signing a three-year deal with Pompey in August 2009 for a fee believed to be in the region of £4 million. He scored his first Portsmouth goal in a 3–2 loss against Bolton Wanderers.He continued his good form over the next few games, playing at the peak of Paul Hart’s midfield diamond and winning Portsmouth’s Player of the Month competition, in September.
On 15 May 2010, Boateng was the subject of much controversy in the 1–0 defeat to Chelsea in the 2010 FA Cup Final. In the first half, he committed a foul on Chelsea player Michael Ballack, causing partially torn right ankle ligaments which ruled the German captain out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Boateng then had a penalty saved by Petr Čech in the 54th minute of the game.Boateng later apologised for the tackle on Ballack saying, “I am sorry, it was not intentional. I just came in too late and made full contact.”
Boateng transferred to Serie A club Genoa on 17 August 2010, and immediately joined Milan on loan. However, as anticipated by Milan CEO Adriano Galliani, the deal was later switched from loan to co-ownership.
The midfielder played 41 times for the German Under-15, Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 national teams, scoring eight goals. He hit the headlines on 20 July 2005 after netting a 47th minute goal from inside the centre circle over 45 yards in a 2005 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship game against Greece, which Germany won 3–0. This impressive strike was voted Goal of the Month by viewers of a renowned German TV sports show. Boateng was offered the chance to play for Ghana in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but declined. The Hertha BSC manager, Dieter Hoeneß, praised Boateng for turning down Ghana and opting to play for Germany. On 27 March 2007, it was reported in the German media that Boateng had told German coach Joachim Löw that he would play for Ghana.
On 9 September, Berliner Morgenpost reported that German National Under-21 Coach Dieter Eilts did not select Boateng anymore because of negative incidents that happened in the team’s camp during the June 2007 Toulon Tournament in France. On 24 June 2009, he announced, due to the lack of future chances to earn a call up for his home country, that he will play for Ghana in the future and that he had hoped to be part of the Ghana national team squad at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. On 7 May 2010, Ghana’s head coach Milovan Rajevac named Boateng in his 30-man squad in preparation for the World Cup in 2010.On 12 May 2010, FIFA finally approved Boateng’s nationality switch application, clearing the way for him to play for Ghana at the World Cup. On 5 June 2010, Kevin-Prince, whose birthday coincides with Ghana’s Independence Day, made his debut for Ghana in the 1–0 win over Latvia. He wears Prince as his shirt name, based on his first names Kevin-Prince. This could be to distinguish himself from his brother Jérôme Boateng and Ghana teammate Derek Boateng. He also chose to wear number 23, the same number he wore at Portsmouth. On 23 June 2010, at the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, Boateng played for Ghana against his brother Jérôme, who was representing Germany; the game ending 1–0 to Germany. This was the first time that two brothers have played for opposing teams in an international match and been on the pitch at the same time. Boateng scored his first goal in a 2–1 win over the United States in the Round of 16 in Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on 26 June.
Boateng has a German mother and a Ghanaian father. His father, Prince Boateng, left Ghana in 1981 hoping for a break in Germany, where he wanted to study administration, but was unsuccessful and he ended up disc jockeying and working as a waiter. Kevin-Prince was only one-and-a-half-years-old when his father left the family home. Thus his German mother, Catherine, ended up working long hours to take care of Kevin and his brother George. His paternal uncle is a former member of the Ghana national team and his maternal grandfather is a cousin of legendary German star Helmut Rahn, scorer of the winning goal in the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final. He has two brothers, George and half-brother Jérôme. Both are football players, with the youngest of the three brothers, Jérôme, also having previously been at Hertha and now playing with Manchester City and the German national team.Boateng calls himself “The Ghetto Kid” because he was brought up in the poor Wedding district of Berlin.In official documents, his name is given as Kevin Boateng, but he himself prefers the name Kevin-Prince in honour of his father, Prince Boateng. He married his long term girlfriend Jennifer two days after signing for Tottenham Hotspur. Boateng has 13 tattoos. About a tattoo on his biceps, he has been quoted as saying, “Here you see Africa and Ghana from my father”, adding, “I have the name of my wife and my home town, Berlin. I have two jokers; one is smiling and the other crying. It means laugh now, cry later.”
Earlier on in his career, Boateng developed a serious shopping addiction as a result of personal problems. Boateng claims that he still owns “around 200 caps, around 20 leather jackets, and 160 pairs of shoes” following the ordeal. Other things the footballer is known to have bought include a Lamborghini, Hummer, and a Cadillac, all in one day for a six-figure fee. Boateng has since overcome this problem, citing how he, “was broken in another world” due to the effects of it.