Newly certified New Zealand citizen Andrew Durante has officially jumped ship – the Australian-born defender declaring his availability for All Whites selection ahead of the Kiwis’ upcoming meeting with New Caledonia.
It’s a development that is unlikely to provoke more than half-interested cries of good luck. Though certainly no slouch, Durante has never warranted sustained candidature for selection from the nation of his birth.
At 30, this was unlikely to change, despite the assumed need for walking frames and mushy food for numerous Socceroos incumbents.
And, of course, the Kiwis have enjoyed genuine success of late. So it’s difficult to imagine why Durante himself would have said no.
And, true, the Phoenix man does look like the closest thing New Zealand might call on to fill the sizeable gap left by the recently retired Ryan Nelsen.
Still, in other ways it’s a baffling decision, and one that quietly belittles international football.
Durante was granted New Zealand citizenship as a result of having played for the Wellington Phoenix since 2008. This represents the totality of his connection to NZ.
Certainly, any nation of modest rank is entitled to cast a wide net in consideration of eligible players. But this is not a case of vague familial connection, or brief, tentative years spent in the land in question.
Durante is an Australian, eligible for New Zealand citizenship purely because the unusual circumstances of the Australian national league led to him plying his trade in a neighbouring country.
The man in question even appeared on the Socceroos’ bench in 2010.
But surely national sporting representatives are supposed to be just that – the finest representation of a nation’s football. Not so here – Durante’s selection for New Zealand says absolutely nothing about the sporting culture that is supposed to spawn its players.
The defender is now in the rather contradictory position of being irrelevant to NZ football, except that he represents it at the highest possible level.
Of course, there is also the matter of Australia and New Zealand’s sporting rivalry. This, too, is an enmity that – most Australians would agree – seems to be felt much more keenly by the Kiwis.
You might have supposed it was a strong disincentive to New Zealand sides recruiting from their trans-Tasman rivals, more so if the player would likely never make the grade on the other side. But you would apparently be wrong.
So, you can hardly blame Durante himself for taking the opportunity presented to him. But his selection is a purely expedient, cynical move on the part of Football NZ.
It openly runs contrary to the spirit of international football – better likened to a ‘shrewd acquisition’ by a side with a keen eye for transfer market openings. But we already have club football for all that.
Such practices are demeaning to the international game, and best avoided.