Saturday, October 11, 2008

Watford kid to play for country he's scared of

Football sometimes throws up stories that manage to transcend the back pages of the newspapers and grab wider attention. Today is the turn of Watford midfielder Alhassan Bangura. The 20-year-old was allowed to stay in the UK by the Home Officer in December 2007 and was then given a work permit in January 2007.

All of that should be in the past, though at the time there was a lot in the press about the situation, as Bangura had been playing without permission to work. One of the key reasons he was allowed to stay in the UK was because he stressed he would be in danger of being killed if he returned to Sierra Leone.

This week, Bangura has been called-up to play for Sierra Leone, the country he fears returning to - although it should be stressed he will only be playing in away matches. The player's new national coach, Ahmed Kanu, said: "I’m pleased that I now have Al Bangura in my team and I hope he will bring life to it. He has told me he is ready to give his best for his country. I’ve seen him playing for Watford and he’s a player I like."

Watford have also backed their player to shine on the international stage. A spokesman said: "He’ll be available to play for Sierra Leone in all their away matches and we’re very pleased for him. Because he still fears for his safety he will not play in home games."

Everybody will have a view on this, but perhaps it's best to focus purely on the footballing implications. Surely it is very, very rare for a player to only be available for away matches? It's more likely, even if rare, for a player to refuse to play abroad, although in the modern era it's hard to imagine any national FA allowing that.

Then again, it shows how football is far more global and the best players are playing in an ever-decreasing number of leagues - and there are now even international players who are unlikely to even step foot in the country they represent for the foreseeable future, let alone play in their own domestic league!