• Sat. Oct 8th, 2022

nico yennaris


Jul 19, 2022

nico yennaris

Nico Yennaris gets landmark China call-up

nico yennaris

Marcello Lippi made Chinese football history on Thursday by calling up London-born former England youth player Nico Yennaris to his international squad.

The former Arsenal reserve is the first naturalised footballer to be selected for China, part of moves by the government to drastically improve the team’s fortunes.

World Cup-winner Lippi has returned as China coach — having left the post in January — and for his first game back, a friendly against the Philippines on June 7, looks set to give Yennaris his landmark debut.

China had until now resisted fielding players born in other countries, but Yennaris’s mother is Chinese and the midfielder joined Beijing Guoan in January registered as a domestic player.

With his paperwork to become a Chinese citizen seemingly completed, the 26-year-old — who has taken on the Chinese name Li Ke — is now poised to help China’s bid to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“It’s an honour to be selected for team China,” he wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo in English.

“I am looking forward to putting on the team China jersey and representing my country.”

China have reached the World Cup only once, in 2002, when they exited without a goal or a point.

Yennaris will undoubtedly help their cause and he has played a key role in Beijing’s Chinese Super League title challenge this season.

Chinese media reports suggest that Lippi would also like to call up the China-based strikers Ricardo Goulart and Elkeson, but unlike Yennaris, the Brazilians have no Chinese ancestry.

Chinese football fans are broadly supportive of the move to include Yennaris, but are deeply sceptical of naturalising those with no family links to the country.

Yennaris came through the youth ranks at Arsenal, but only made one Premier League appearance and moved to second-tier Brentford in 2014.

Yennaris, whose father is Cypriot, spent five years at the Championship club before moving to China at the start of the year.

He represented England at under-17, under-18 and under-19 levels, but can play for China because he is not a senior England international.

As part of his switch of nationalities, Yennaris has been learning Mandarin and said he would be proud to represent his adopted country.

China need all the help they can get with an ageing squad and little in the way of talent coming through.

Underlining that dearth, Lippi again called up Guangzhou Evergrande skipper Zheng Zhi, who will be 39 in August.

China are ranked a lowly 74th in the world in FIFA’s rankings, sandwiched between Panama and Cape Verde, but the government has grand ambitions for the country to one day host and even win a World Cup.

First, however, with the 71-year-old Lippi back at the helm, they face the Philippines and Tajikistan four days later in another low-key friendly.

Under interim coach Fabio Cannavaro, China lost their last two matches, to lower-ranked Thailand and Uzbekistan.

Nico Yennaris gets landmark China call-up