FIFA new eligibility rules that could benefit East Asian nations

FIFA changed the eligibility rules at a FIFA congress last month (18th September), which could benefit some of the bigger East Asian nations we follow more so than the smaller ones. We look at why some nations could benefit more than others.

What has changed 

FIFA have agreed upon a change to the eligibility rule during one of their virtual congresses. The rule change now allows players to change national teams, even if they have already played three times for a nation they are eligible for. 

The three matches can include tournament qualifying matches (but not major tournament games) before they turned 21 but these games have to be at least three years previous to their call up for a new nation. 

This means a plethora of players could become eligible to countries around the world, who were previously unavailable to be selected. It could open the door to the 10 East Asian nations we follow at the Tofu Bowl to naturalise some foreign players playing in their local leagues, or look abroad to players who have ancestral ties to the country but have played a couple of times for the country of their birth. 

At the same time, some players who have represented one of the 10 East Asian nations through ancestry could become a risk of being poached by their birth nations. 

We will be trying to get our head around this new rule for a little while, and trying to figure out who could now be available to represent which country, and which players could be at risk for being poached by another country. On the whole, we believe a lot of the EAFF nations will be able to benefit from this rule, more than the negatives that could come from it. That is if they want to exploit this new rule change. 

What could the EAFF nations gain from this rule change?

The main benefit to all nations in the EAFF is that they will now have access to a larger pool of players if those players that become available to national teams because of this change are willing to represent their 'other' nation. 

The 'other' nation could be through ancestry or naturalisation. Some countries already have players like this in their national teams, with the most famous of late being China, with the likes of Elkeson. Japan too, have had a host of naturalized players in their national team over the years, it would be interesting to see if they would ever be interested in selecting non-Japanese players in the current era. 

Then there are teams like South Korea, where patriotism (or some would call it to pride in their national identity) make them seem reluctant to allow non-Korean nationals to play for the national team. 

With these new rule changes opening the door for more players than ever before to 'move' to another international team, maybe we will see teams who previously weren't willing to even enter the idea of allowing a 'Jonny Foreigner' on their national side. 

The smaller nations in the EAFF however, could possibly get other countries cast-offs. For example, if China cap players from Macau or Hong Kong, but only play them twice because they think they're not good enough, then they will be able to represent one of these two smaller 'nations' (SARs). 

Providing a huge boost to both Macau and Hong Kong in the future because China is likely to pounce on any player either of these two sides finds that looks like he might be half decent. Especially with China now pushing a football agenda as they're on a mission (which they currently look to be failing) to qualify for a World Cup soon.

Another route of access to players under this new rule change would be players who could have played for the 'smaller' national team of the two they had the choice to play for, but opted for the larger one. If the more influential nation then decides they don't like the player anymore but have only given them 1 or 2 caps, then the smaller nation will still have the chance to take them into their side, this could enable the smaller nations not only in the EAFF but around the world, access to a whole host of players who could potentially strengthen some of the world minnows a great deal. 

This could, of course, work both ways, for example with Taiwan and Emilio Estevez, who currently sits on exactly three caps for Taiwan. If Canada decided they would like to take him back, now thanks to FIFA, they have the opportunity too, unless some of those 3 caps came after he turned 22.

Yesterday, after reading this news for the first time, I thought that this was a terrible move, now, however, after reading the rule change a little more and taking the time to get my head around it. I think it should benefit smaller nations a lot more because players who they may have wanted to cap would have previously been cap-locked into a 'bigger' national side. 

Therefore, players have less chance of being 'cap-locked' meaning countries will really have to like a player a lot to keep in their national pool of players because they'll either need to play a lot or will need to play at major finals. 

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