Germany Gives up Subotic Pursuit

Neven Subotic may be one step closer to deciding his national team future now that a FIFA rule has been discovered that denies Germany the chance to claim him.
By Andrea Canales

Defender Neven Subotic’s numerous options for national team play have now been reduced by one. The German federation has been informed by FIFA that Subotic is not eligible to play for Germany.

The specific FIFA rule, which has recently come to light, bars players from playing for any countries of which they were not citizens during their first participation in a FIFA competition.

Subotic played for the U.S. U-17 National Team during the Youth World Cup in Peru. He was a member of the 2005 squad that lost to Holland in the quarterfinals of that competition. At the time of the tournament, Subotic wasn’t a German citizen, though his family had spent years there as refugees from the break-up of Yugoslavia.

After his family moved to the United States, Subotic gained U.S. citizenship. He then moved back to Germany and is in the process of forging a promising career with Dortmund.

His play caught the interest of Germany’s coach, Joachim Löw, who looked into the situation of whether Subotic could play for Germany. Subotic himself expressed an inclination to join the German team. However, citizenship cannot be given retroactively. FIFA informed the German federation that the current rule bars Subotic from playing with Germany.

The German federation has indicated that they have accepted the explanation and do not plan to challenge the rule.

That leaves three other countries as possible options for Subotic – Bosnia, Serbia and the U.S. Neven’s father has expressed his wish that his son represent Serbia. The nineteen year-old has two years left to declare his choice of either Bosnia or Serbia. Once he turns 21, his eligibility defaults to the U.S., the country he has already represented.

The U.S., however, is very interested in having Subotic represent them again. Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. soccer federation, has personally followed Subotic’s story.

“He’s eligible for Serbia and Bosnia, as well as the U.S.” Gulati explained.

Though he wasn’t surprised about the FIFA rule that made Subotic unavailable for Germany, Gulati understood Subotic’s interest in playing for that country.

“He’s spent a lot of time in Germany and he’s focusing on his German club team at present,” Gulati explained.

Gulati was in no rush to impose a decision on a player, simply because another country was a possible option.

“The situation where we have players eligible for more than one country clouds the central issue, which is whether they’re good enough for our national team,” Gulati said.

He explained that the final call on a player’s invite would always be at the discretion of national team coach Bob Bradley.

It’s not hard to surmise that any player Germany tried to bring to their own team would probably be a key asset to the U.S. squad. Subotic is aware of the U.S. interest him, and now that the question of a German option has been ruled out, he may soon decide among the remaining countries.
“Ultimately, it’s up to player to choose the country where they want to play,” Gulati said.

Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of USA.