By Tony Attwood
10 August 2013: In a somewhat unexpected result Arsenal beat Man City 3-1 in a friendly. Sebastian Perez Cardona appeared for Arsenal, and the AAA and their journalistic allies made much of the fact that the player did not have a work permit.
He came on as a sub in the 67th minute wearing number 32 and played the rest of the match. He got praise for “natural abilities” in the game and indeed during the week he spent with Arsenal.
But Perez was unable to get a work-permit as ‘he had yet to play at least 75% of Colombia’s international matches’.
The AAA howled that this incident showed how pathetically disorganised Arsenal were, and how it was no wonder that every other club got the players they wanted when they wanted when we couldn’t even sort out the issues of something as basic as work permits.
It was of course obvious that no one writing this stuff had ever made an application for a work permit (and probably never a visa) in circumstances where one doesn’t meet all the requirements, but meets some. But uncertainty is the name of the game. Believe me, I know. I worked in Algeria for a year.
But on to more weighty matters. Take Alexis Sanchez -he didn’t train in Austria ahead of the season because he was in Paris getting his visa and work permit.
More Arsenal cock-ups? No, the paperwork was just taking time, and you can’t apply for a work permit in the country you want to work in – it stops people coming in and working and then applying retrospectively.
And that was all really a small matter when you compare it all to Marcos Rojo who has missed two matches with Manchester Untidy and might not actually play their game this weekend. He’s been a Man U man for a week or more, but is now back in Spain at the Argentine embassy.
So while other players are working on their fitness Louis vG said, “Marcos Rojo is working on his work permit.” I am not sure if that was a joke or not. But King Louis did make the point that “He must go abroad for it.” He must indeed.
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I wanted to write about what this is all about because it is going to happen again, and when it does the AAA will rise up once more, and at least then I can point them to this. Here’s the basics…
For a non-EU player to get a work permit, he must have played in more than 75% of his country’s matches in the last two years, and that country must be in the top 70 nations in Fifa’s ranking.
Argentina qualifies as a top nation, and Rojo has 28 caps in the last four seasons, but the only games counted are World Cup qualifiers, the Copa America and other significant tournament matches.
It is all set up to stop pesky little countries exporting their players and big countries putting on silly matches to help some of their nationals play overseas. It also explains why clubs are willing to let players go overseas to play for the national team – because when they come to sell the players, the players will still be free to move around – assuming they haven’t taken UK citizenship en route.
Dual nationality is handy – especially if one of the passports is from within the EU, because with that you can work anywhere in the EU. Although of course if Ukip come to power in the UK, all that will end and we will once again be watching a Premier League made up of British and Irish players. Ah, the good old days.
But the EU system isn’t perfect. In 2013 Willian went from Aznhi Makhachkala to Chelsea having only two Brazil caps. Chelsea came up with the nifty argument that Willian would have won more caps if had he not been Brazilian because Brazil has so many talented players and is such a big country that few get the chance to meet the criteria.
And wouldn’t you know it, the FA fell for it and supported the application, so the Foreign Office in the UK said “righty ho”.
Now not every EU country has the same set of rules. Holland and Spain and to a degree France are regular stopping off places for players who can’t work in England because the regulations make it easier for them to stay. Think of Joel Campbell – whose country was not big enough to qualify as a top Fifa country. I wonder if Arsenal appealed with the same sort of appeal that Chelsea made, only this time saying “it isn’t fair, Cost Rica is too small a country to get into the top Fifa rankings.” If it works for Chelsea and Brazil it ought to work for Arsenal and Costa Rica.
But in the end Joel did his time in the EU and (I think) got dual nationality in Spain.
The fact is, clubs can’t go round doing hypothetical applications for players to work in Britain – they have to have a job offer on the table first – which is why these things happen.
Still, as I say, at least when the AAA blame Wenger again, I can always point them to this little piece.