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Juventus president Agnelli: If players own passport let them play

updated 4:51 PM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
Juventus president Andreas Agnelli celebrates their 2013 Serie A win with the club's manager Antonio Conte
Juventus president Andreas Agnelli celebrates their 2013 Serie A win with the club's manager Antonio Conte
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Juve president says players who have a passport should be allowed to play for that country
  • Debate raging after England manager Roy Hodgson said Adnan Januzaj is on his radar
  • Man Utd winger was born in Belgium but could qualify for England under FIFA rules
  • Andrea Agnelli confident solution can be found if FIFA decide to move 2022 Qatar World Cup

(CNN) -- Any footballer who holds a passport for a particular country should be allowed to represent them on the football field.

That is Juventus president Andrea Agnelli's take on the hot topic that is dominating the build-up to the final round of European qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup.

Debate has raged in England after the country's national team manager Roy Hodgson revealed he had been looking at the latest starlet off the Manchester United production line -- Adnan Januzaj.

The Belgian-born 18-year-old has starred for the defending English Premier League champions this season and could qualify to play for England through residency rules if he stays in the country until he is 23.

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Arsenal's Jack Wilshere then raced headlong into the debate by telling a press conference while on England duty: "The only people who should play for England are English people."

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Those remarks only served to transcend the dispute across the sporting spectrum as England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, South African by birth but with an English mother, challenged Wilshere's view.

The owner of 99 Test caps for England pointed to Tour de France winner Chris Froome and double Olympic champion Mo Farah as examples of sportsmen who competed under the United Kingdom banner but who were born in another country.

"It's very difficult -- we live in a global world, in a truly globalized environment," Agnelli told CNN World Sport.

"In a global world when you're entitled to have a passport of a country and you have legislation for that, you should be entitled to play for the national team of that country.

"My wife is English and I've got two kids -- they were born in Italy -- how I should go back home and explain to my wife that they couldn't wear the English national team (jersey)?

"When you think about nationality, are they English? Their mother is English but they were born in Italy. I have other friends who have different nationalities (of parents) and were born in a third country.

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"Maybe they were born in a different country just because of a momentary placement for a job but would they represent that nationality or would they feel something different?"

Agnelli has stabilized Italian giants Juventus since he assumed the presidency in May 2010, with the club still dealing from the fall out of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal that saw them relegated to the second tier in Italy.

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In the three years he's been in charge Agnelli has overseen Juve's return as Italy's most successful club, winning two Serie A titles in a row, and their move to a new stadium, which has helped strengthen the club financially.

Juve are this season gunning for a third straight Serie A crown, matching their achievement of 80 years ago, but he still thinks Italy's top league has a long way to go to match the powerhouse trio of domestic competitions in England, Spain and Germany.

"Serie A is not where it was in the 1980s and 1990s when it was the fabulous destination for every football player," he explained. "I think we have to catch up a lot of ground we have lost in the recent past.

"At the moment we are fourth and we should be more considered about the countries behind, like France & Portugal, from a UEFA ranking point of view rather than catching up with who is in front of us.

"Italy needs to go through a structural reform of the way we run football before we can actually aspire again to clinch third place, then move up the ladder to become number one."

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This week the finest players in Europe are preparing to represent their countries as the final round of World Cup qualifiers determine who makes it to Brazil in 2014.

But looming large in the background are the issues that surround the tournament that is still nine years away -- the proposed 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Football's world governing body FIFA last week set up a task force to investigate the possibility of moving the 2022 competition from Qatar's summer to winter, to avoid the searing heat that could affect both players and fans alike.

No final verdict will be offered before the latest installment in Brazil has been completed but any shift in date would have huge ramifications for Europe's leagues and clubs.

But Agnelli is confident a solution that suits everyone can be settled upon. "I think the fact there is a lot of chat is good because everyone within the football family wants to make sure the right decision is made," he added.

"I think there has been a clear position from the FIFA executive committee which is a decision will be taken following the 2014 World Cup Brazil 2014 -- that should leave plenty of time to make the right decision.

"Moving a World Cup from June or July when it is normally played to a different month is a huge involvement. We tend to speak a lot about the players who actually take part in the competition but that is the minority, you have to think about what the rest of the football family will do.

"We have to understand what the calendar will look like, how we will make the players rest, is it going to be a one year change of calendar.

"What is important is that the clubs' point of view will be listened to and I think European Club Association will make sure that point of view will be well represented within the right bodies."

Agnelli also acknowledged the wider issues involved with shunting the date of one of the most watched sporting events on the planet, including the agreements that would have to be struck with television broadcasters.

"You have to understand the TV broadcasters will have their own say -- every player involved will have a point of view," he said.

"You clearly sold to the American broadcasters a product that should be taking place in June or July and you are going to put it throughout the regular season of NFL, NBA and NHL -- will that have the same value?

"There are a lot of players which need to come to an agreement, I'm quite sure with the good will of everybody a good solution will be found in the interests of football itself."

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