Robbie Earle plays Premiership football for Wimbledon, "The Dons". He is also a regular columnist on the Observer sports pages. He is not among the great players; rather, I would say he makes a solid contribution to a team of journeymen. I do however make a point of reading his column regularly: it is well written, thoughtful and always precise.
Latterly Earle has transferred his loyalty to Jamaica (along with others who did not have a hope of playing for England) in their national team's successful attempt to qualify for the World Cup finals in France. The rules of the Football Association dictate that if a player has a parent born in a country different from himself he may represent either the country of his birth or that of one of his parents. The Northern ireland football team is packed with such, and now a generation of those born here, but with parents born in one of the Caribbean islands, are similarly spreading their loyalties. This is a transitional phenomenon: it will fade out with succeeding generations. Hence the fact that four players, born here, are all playing for the Jamaican squad.
Since Jamaica's success in qualifying, others, too, have been putting their cases to the Jamaican authorities for inclusion in the World Cup squad. Robbie Earle objects to these newly patriotic applicants: he tells us that only those who have played in qualifying matches should be eligible. Nothing to do with their talent, he argues; rather, he is concerned that the public might view such players as "mercenaries", and that their presence will undermine the confidence of the "homegrown" players. I imagine the charge of mercenary behaviour stems from the fact that every player who represented Jamaica in the qualifiers has been awarded a prime plot of land on the tourist north coast, and a house to be built from government funds. On top of which jamaican businessmen have been contributing generous sponsorship deals.
In this column I have strongly defended a multinational current in sport, arguing always that migration undermines a narrow Tebbit-style sporting nationalism. And now Robbie Earle seeks to inhibit this positive movement forward. …