Nico Yennaris from London to China

How does a man with the middle name Harry who was born in East London go from Brentford to the Chinese Super League and in with a chance of representing the Chinese in the space of a few short months? This is the reality for the former Arsenal youth graduate Nico Yennaris who is now known as Li Ke. 

More about Yennaris

Let's start then at the beginning the London born player began his career in London with Arsenal. He did only make one appearance for the club however and moved on at a young age to Brentford after short loan stints with Notts County and Bournemouth.

At Brentford, he made his name as a defensive-minded player who could play as a fullback or as a defensive midfielder. After then being sent out on loan the player made his mark with the club and between 2014 and 2019 made 189 appearances in all competitions.

In this time he scored 12 goals despite being known a lot more for his defensive abilities. I think it would be fair to say then he was well liked and a big player for Brentford in the English Championship.

These performances attracted interest them from an unlikely source in the form of Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan and when the CSL side was able to nationalise him they got him on board in January 2019.

How did he go from Yennaris to Li Ke and a Chinese national 

The player born in London has a multicultural background and this is how he was able to gain Chinese citizenship. This is due to a father of Cypriot origin and a mother of Chinese origin. Then under the name Li Ke the player decided to take the route to China.

This as not been an easy route and the player moved in January but until the weekend had in fact not played in three months due to issues gaining the citizenship. China might be desperate for new talent but they still want to make sure this talent embraces the culture.

This is seen as CSL clubs are finding players with Chinese links and looking to bring them to the league while giving them Chinese passports and the chance to play for the country. This was also seen with Norway-born midfielder John Hou Saeter, his Chinese name Hou Yongyong, also moving to the Beijing club.

It is not as simple as a Chinese passport and the chance to play in China for these players though. This is seen with new guidelines issued by the Chinese Football Association that say naturalised players must learn the history and basic theories, in addition to the China national anthem, flag, symbols, national conditions and Chinese culture.

Along with they will need to learn the Chinese-language and a learning plan is to be taking on with monthly reports on the players' progress submitted to the CFA each month.

It will now be interesting to see if more players follow suit and come to China and also if the pair who have moved from England and Norway are able to make it. If they do you never know you could be hearing their names in relation to the China side at the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

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