The possibility of James McCarthy turning his back on the Republic of Ireland to represent Scotland, the country of his birth, lies in a little known FIFA rule which was brought into force in June 2009.
A FIFA statute, which previously allowed players to switch nationalities before the age of 21, was modified to permit a player to change associations under specific regulations.
To qualify, a player must not have played in an official competition at full international level for a country. Friendly matches are not taken into consideration, allowing McCarthy – whose sole cap for Ireland was in a friendly against Brazil – to consider switching.
Additionally, a player willing to swap countries must have held the nationality he wants to switch to at the time he gave his commitment to a different association. McCarthy again qualifies, having been born in Scotland and eligible for his native national team at the time he decided to play international football for the Republic of Ireland.
If McCarthy now decides he wants to play for Scotland, FIFA will have to give their approval for the switch to take place. But a small number of players have already benefitted from the rule change and were cleared to switch nationalities after formalities were completed.
Two players, Jermaine Jones and Edgar Castillo, have taken advantage of the ruling, representing the USA’s national team despite having taken to the field for Germany and Mexico respectively in friendlies previously.
Article 18 of the FIFA Statutes states: “a player...is eligible to play for several representative teams due to nationality, he may, only once, request to change the Association for which he is eligible to play international matches to the Association of another country of which he holds nationality.
“[This is provided] he has not played a match (either in full or in part) in an official competition at “A” international level for his current Association, and at the time of his first full or partial appearance in an international match in an official competition for his current Association, he already had the nationality of the representative team for which he wishes to play.”
MCCARTHY COULD SWITCH TO SCOTLAND