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
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
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
“Ultimately, it’s up to player to choose the country where they want to play,” Gulati said.
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com USA.