FIFA changes Regulations regarding diaspora players, what it means for Macedonia?

The 70th FIFA Congress was held as an online event from Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday, 18 September 2020. It was the first ever Congress that was convened remotely. The event was originally scheduled to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

photo by FFM: former FFM president Ilcho Gjorgjioski welcoming Uroš Matić to the national team

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At this Congress FIFA made some changes to the Regulations considering the eligibility to play for national teams. 193 members voted for the amendments, 1 was against with 7 invalid votes. There are several amendments that can affect our national team in this moment.

FIFA allowed the change of the national team to players who already played at senior international level in an official match. In the article 9, paragraph 2c is written that a request to change association may be granted only if the player:

  • was fielded in a match in an official competition at senior international level in any kind of football for his current association;
  • at the time of being fielded for his first match in an official competition (at any level) in any kind of competition for his current association, he held the nationality of the association which he wishes to represent;
  • at the time of being fielded in his last match in an official match in any kind of competition for his current association, he had not turned 21 years old;
  • was fielded in no more than 3 matches at senior international level in any match for his current association, whether in an official or non-official competition;
  • at least 3 years have passed since being fielded for his last match at senior international level in any kind of competition for his current association, whether in an official or non-official competition; and
  • has never participated in any kind of football at senior international level in the final tournament of the FIFA World Cup or a final tournament of a confederation competition.

According to this amendment the Swedish international Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus, Italy) is still eligible to play for the Macedonian national team but that’s actually mission impossible because he already declared that he prefers Sweden over Macedonia and he needs only one more cap for Sweden to be lost forever. We have the same situation with the Belgian-born Lindon Selahi (Twente, Netherlands) who also needs one more cap for Albania after which he wouldn’t be eligible to play for our national team in the future.

One more interesting change is written in article 9, paragraph 5:

  • a player that was granted a change of association and was not fielded in a match in any (official or unofficial) competition in any kind of level by the new association, may request a change of association back to his former association provided he continues to hold the nationality of such association.

This means that the former Macedonian youth international Besir Demiri (he took part at U21 EURO 2017) can still play for the Macedonian national team because even though he was granted to play for Albania he was never fielded in a match for his new association.

The last change in the Regulations that affects our national team at this moment is written in article 9, paragraph 2b.
A request to change association may be granted if a player:

  • was fielded in a match in an official competition at any level (with the exception of senior international level) in any kind of football for his current association;
  • at the time of being fielded for his first match in an official competition in any kind of level for his current association, he did not hold the nationality of the association which he wishes to represent;
  • at the time of being fielded for his last match in an official competition in any kind of level for his current association, he had not turned 21 years old; and
  • meets any of the requirements provided in article 6 or article 7:
    • he was born on the territory of the relevant association;
    • his biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant association;
    • his grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant association;
    • he has lived continuously on the territory of the relevant association for at least 5 years.

This change means that after 5 years of legal battle Uroš Matić can finally play for the Macedonian national team.

The Australian Benjamin Kantarovski is also one of the footballers who can refer to this article if he submits a request to play for Macedonia, although in the past he twice rejected our call.

We’ve contacted the Football federation of Macedonia to find out if there are any unsolved cases with the footballers who wanted to play for Macedonia but FIFA didn’t allow them. They replied that they have only one open case in front of the FIFA authorities – the Uroš Matić case. After this Congress FIFA has the opportunity to resolve this case in our favor if the FFM decide to reopen it. We’ll see what’s gonna happen in the near future.

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