According to TimesLive, coach Stuart Baxter is beefing up Bafana Bafana with Benoni-born Swiss national Joel Untersee. Untersee is currently on loan to Italian Serie B side Empoli, though he is contracted to Serie A stars Juventus. Although born in SA‚ Untersee has played for the Switzerland junior sides, and will be required to switch to South African citizenship to play for Bafana Bafana.
Baxter has been in contact with the 24-year-old right-back for several months. While he has not been included in the Bafana Bafana squad to compete in the Four Nations Tournament in Zambia, the coach said Untersee has committed himself to South Africa instead of Switzerland.
Baxter said that he'd identified five or six potential Bafana players overseas to go out and see, and that "Joel was one of them". It appears that the coach is looking to lure back South African talents from European club deals and foreign national teams, to develop a stronger Mzansi side.
Switching nationality in football is certainly not a new phenomenon. In fact, players have been switching nationality since the 1950s; Untersee is simply the latest to join the trend.
Fifa rules stipulate that a player may represent any national team, as long as they hold citizenship of that country. However, in 2004 – as a result of concerning levels of naturalisation (adopting host-country citizenship) of foreign players in some countries – Fifa implemented a significant new ruling that requires a player to demonstrate a "clear connection" to any country they wish to represent.
Benoni-born Untersee should have no trouble in that regard.
Here are two more footballers who switched nationality for a team:
1. Diego Costa
Brazilian by birth, Spanish on the pitch. Athletico Madrid forward Diego Costa had one hell of a dilemma in 2014, when he was stuck between choosing to present his homeland, Brazil, in the 2014 World Cup, or choose Spain, where he had been made a Spanish citizen.
He ended up choosing Spain – ended up representing two countries in the same calendar year, thanks to two friendlies he played for Brazil, although they are not classified as official games. He was, of course, public enemy number one with Brazilian fans – coach Luiz Felipe Scolari accused him of "turning his back on his country".
2. Kevin-Prince Boateng
Kevin-Prince Boateng was born and raised in Germany, and even played for Germany's youth football teams at the U19 and U21 level, but he ended up representing Ghana at the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
After a falling out with the German Football Association in 2007, he was dropped and told the GFA that he was no longer interested in representing Germany.
Boateng chose to represent his father's home country, Ghana. He even squared off with his half-brother, Jerome Boateng, who remained a German player, at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.