Declan Rice’s decision to opt to play for England is not something Irish fans can get too annoyed at.
However, the way he carried himself in the year leading up to his declaration is what many are entitled to feel aggrieved about. It’s time we take a big step back from nationalism and accept that football, in most countries, has become too commodified for that.
While saying that, Declan Rice dipped into the concept of being proudly Irish, before deciding that it didn’t matter a whole lot in the first place. Let’s add some context to his decision.
Until you play competitive football for a country, you can decide to switch allegiances. If you have an issue with the actual switch Rice has made, your issue should be with the regulations rather than the player in question.
The Republic of Ireland have been guilty of manipulating this, too. Just ask any Northern Irish football fan about this little wrinkle. Aiden McGeady, too – but he’s sh*te, so nobody remembers Aiden McGeady.
There are countless issues more important than forced nationalism: resources at underage level; player welfare; administrative pains; football association pathways. If a nation donates time and energy to your development as a footballer, there should at least be compensation packages between associations if someone does choose to switch.
If you’re a “proud Englishman” then why play for us in the first place?
— Kevin Kilbane (@kdkilbane77) February 13, 2019
That’s a watered-down review of what should happen. In reality, if you’re capped at underage level – then you need to be registered to their FIFA nation for the remainder of your career, pending political unrest and newly-registered participants in FIFA competition.
Now for something nobody can disagree with: Declan Rice is English. But for something people can absolutely feel aggrieved by: Rice didn’t portray someone who showed indifference to Irish heritage, nor did he actively try to repress it.
He teased Irish pride by singing the national anthem and kissing the Irish crest in Tallaght following a late, late winner last year.
If Rice had been torn between Ireland and any other nation on the planet, there would be less uproar.
As much as anyone would like to remove 800 years of history, it’s not possible and it’s ingrained into our national psyche.
To flirt Irishness and then to proclaim you’re definitively English in the area of your life you’re most associated with, is a step too far – regardless of what age you are. And forget the Twitter brigade who will lambast Rice regardless of his conduct or ultimate decision. This speaks to everyone who is genuinely frustrated as opposed to the internet angst with no basis that follows any form of news about football.
Declan Rice has made his decision and the only reason we’re particularly concerned is because he would have changed the future of the national team in terms of qualifying for major tournaments and progressing through them.
If Declan Rice was rubbish, nobody would bat an eyelid. Right now, Ireland are down a potential world-class number six and England have their replacement for Eric Dier.
It’s time we moved on from the anger phase and swiftly welcomed the lengthy period of national upset.
Until the rules change, our limited underage resources will be spent on preparing players for England call-ups.
But that’s two-pronged. If we developed players better domestically, properly funded the League of Ireland and built up a line of progression from schoolboy clubs through national framework to the international scene, we wouldn’t be in this position.
Slowly but surely, the FAI are overseeing this transition. In 10 year’s time, if FIFA change those regulations and the Republic of Ireland meet their expectations, there won’t be any more Declan Rices.
Rice is a loss, but countless scenarios of players with less ability than Rice would be worse. Irish football, and football in general, need to use this example as a case study going forward for ensuring equal opportunities among smaller nations.