The Olyroos may have reached Tokyo 2020 with all the finesse of Eric the Eel, but there’s no doubt their qualification is a huge achievement and a major boost for Australian football.
Australian-born defender Ersan Gulum has been called up for Turkey’s national soccer team, effectively ending any prospect of him playing for the Socceroos.
Gulum, 23, has broken into the first-team at leading Turkish club Besiktas and cemented a spot in central defence, playing six solid matches in succession.
But despite being raised in Melbourne and playing twice for the Olyroos during Graham Arnold’s reign, he had not been picked at senior level for Australia.
He was again overlooked by new coach Holger Osieck for the Socceroos squad to play Egypt next Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).
Instead ex-Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink has swooped on the dual citizen, and he has been added to Turkey’s squad to play Holland – also next Wednesday.
Should he be capped in that match, he would be unable to play for Australia.
Gulum told SBS’s The World Game website he hoped people would understand his decision to play for Turkey, whose federation has been watching his progress closely of late, after he had continually been ignored by Australia.
“I have and always and will have a close allegiance with Australia. I love the country,” he said.
“Through my management, Football Australia has been notified of my ongoing progress.
“For me it has been a case of being overlooked at all levels in the past for Australia, for whatever the reason has been.
“People would have differing views about my decision to play for Turkey and I can assure everyone that it wasn’t an easy one.
“I hope all concerned will respect me for the decision that I have had to make, based on my current position in Turkey.”
Osieck said last week Gulum was in his thoughts, but he would not be rushed into selecting him.
“In my network I talk to Besiktas head coach Bernd Schuster and believe me we are not leaving any stone unturned,” Osieck said.
“It would be ignorant of me not to have a look at him. But four good games do not give you a clear indication.
“I know about the activities of the Turkish federation. They go everywhere whenever they see a player with a Turkish name.”