The Immigration Conundrum

On New Year’s Eve, Ashifa Kassam of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian wrote about the recent tendency, almost regardless of nation, of politicians and governments to call for pressure against the tides of immigration to their respective countries. The arguments are largely the same. Defend our jobs, defend our economy, defend our cherished way of life from the scary, Other. If they want in, they have to do things our way. Even the skilled worker from abroad, though valued for same, can find a rough road to being truly accepted.

When you’re the one losing people, though, the mood changes. Why are we losing citizens? Aren’t we doing a good enough job as a country? What are you seeing somewhere else that’s better than here? Please stay! Some nations, the more repressive ones, will often… insist that you stay. But be it by keeping out the new or retaining the existing, maintenance of one’s own preexisting population tends to be the focus.

In national-level sports, this is by nature enforced to one degree or another. Nations are supposed to keep to their own. Otherwise, what are we even doing. Sometimes the requirements are rather loose, such as in the Olympics, where it is quite possible for someone to represent one nation in one Games and another nation the next due to quirks of a family tree, or to represent a nation you only barely identify with because that nation would otherwise simply not have a team to send. In other places, the requirements are far more stringent, requiring you to pick one country and stick with them. Soccer introduced the concept of the one-time switch in 2009, allowing a player to swap nations once, and only once, should they run into some sort of issue with the first nation they pledge to.

This doesn’t completely get rid of anti-immigration sentiment. France in particular has struggled to accept a multicultural team, and sometimes has rejected it outright, even after such a team won France the 1998 World Cup on home soil. The reverse is also true in some cases: athletes who defect from Cuba have done so with the full realization that they’ll never play at the international level again because Cuba will, to grossly understate the matter, never pick them for the national team again. But the principle of meritocracy, in sports more than in many other fields, typically takes hold. Much of the time immigration turns from something to be fought against into something to be fought for, as players desirable to multiple nations are openly courted by everybody they’re eligible to play for. The tribal nature of team sports overcomes: if you’re wearing our laundry, you’re one of us.

Usually, the role of manager/head coach is the same way. You’re supposed to actually represent the country you represent. Here, though, soccer has no such restriction. A manager can lead any nation willing to employ him at any time. And as such, managers can get hit with both sides of the coin: openly courted by the nations wishing to hire them, then often fired for altering things too far past what they view as their particular soccer culture or failing to meet expectations heightened by dint of their foreignness (after all, if he’s going to take our job, he’d better get that job done right), and sure to hear grumblings about their true loyalties should the nation they lead happen to play the nation they’re from.

What follows is a census of, at least at the time I examined each of them individually on the evening of January 1 and morning of January 2, the nationalities of managers currently employed by every senior national men’s squad in FIFA, according to whenever possible. In the event that the manager position was vacant at the time of my check, I simply took the most recent person in the position.

A couple notes before we do this regarding a couple particular cases:

*Egypt, with a vacant position after firing domestically-based Shawky Gharib in November, has announced that their next man up will be foreign. Having not named that man yet, though, for our purposes they revert to Gharib.
*Iceland, is under a joint-managerial situation, co-headed by Lars Lagerback of Sweden and Heimir Hallgrimsson of Iceland. Both nations will be scored as managing Iceland.
*Zimbabwe is shown as vacant on This article shows the most recent manager as Zimbabwean Ian Gorowa, who quit in August after going unpaid for seven months. Wikipedia claims a man named Peter Panayiotides, of Australia, to be the new coach, but their link to such a claim goes only to an article about the hiring of a predecessor, German Klaus Dieter Pagels. Being unable to independently verify the existence of Panayiotides as a guy that has something to do with soccer, and unable to find the name of anyone they’ve hired since, I’ve opted to count Gorowa as the scoring manager.

Here’s the list, starting with those nations who have people managing multiple teams. The managing nation is in caps, the managed nations in normal type.

FRANCE (13): Algeria, Benin, Chad, China, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Guinea, Haiti, Mauritania, Oman, Senegal, Tahiti
ENGLAND (7): Botswana, England, Guam, Jordan, Laos, New Zealand, Rwanda
GERMANY (7): Afghanistan, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Singapore, South Korea, United States
ITALY (5): Albania, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Russia
SERBIA (5): Mongolia, Myanmar, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Uganda
SPAIN (5): Bolivia, Canada, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Spain
ARGENTINA (4): Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay
COSTA RICA (4): Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Puerto Rico
NETHERLANDS (4): Bangladesh, India, Netherlands, Tanzania
PORTUGAL (4): Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Portugal
BELGIUM (3): Belgium, Burkina Faso, Tunisia
COLOMBIA (3): Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama
CROATIA (3): Azerbaijan, Croatia, Maldives
POLAND (3): Mali, Nepal, Poland
SCOTLAND (3): Brunei, Kenya, Scotland
SOUTH KOREA (3): Cambodia, Hong Kong, South Sudan
SWEDEN (3): Estonia, Iceland, Sweden
SWITZERLAND (3): Armenia, Austria, Switzerland
URUGUAY (3): Fiji, Peru, Uruguay
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA (2): Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat
AUSTRALIA (2): Australia, Tonga
AUSTRIA (2): Indonesia, Liechtenstein
BAHRAIN (2): Bahrain, Pakistan
BRAZIL (2): Brazil, Timor-Leste
DENMARK (2): Denmark, Faroe Islands
EGYPT (2): Burundi, Egypt
ISRAEL (2): Ghana, Israel
MEXICO (2): Japan, Mexico
NORTHERN IRELAND (2): Ireland, Northern Ireland
ROMANIA (2): Romania, Saudi Arabia
RUSSIA (2): Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

BELIZE: Curacao
CANADA: Trinidad and Tobago
JAPAN: Vietnam
NEW ZEALAND: Papua New Guinea
PERU: El Salvador
UGANDA: Somalia
UNITED STATES: Philippines

PURELY DOMESTIC: American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bosnia/Herzegovina, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chinese Taipei, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, DR Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Finland, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Caledonia, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Palestine, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome e Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Wales, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Look at any one country’s historical list of managers, and you’ll see some trends seen here play out further. The top nations will, most of the time, see no need to hire from outside. Those who aren’t as good are more likely to consider a candidate from elsewhere, in some cases more likely than they are to hire domestically. A superior neighbor. A former colonizer. An established name brand.

The case of Egypt is a perfect example. Seven-time champions of Africa, the Pharoahs see little need to hire from elsewhere in the continent, but with only two brief appearances at the World Cup, they’ve long felt like a big fish in a small pond, driving them to seek name-brand flags to get them to the next level. But it’s never resolved one way or the other. Egypt has flip-flopped between domestic managers and name brand nations ever since their team’s original formation. Scotland, England, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Germany, Wales, Romania, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and most recently the United States have been hired and then fired over the years, with each and every one of those nations having seen at least one of their men supplanted by a domestic replacement. And failure to even qualify for the last three editions of the African Cup of Nations- after having won the three previous editions- has put them on edge.

In their latest firing of Shawky Gharib, Egypt’s decision-makers are once again teetering to the foreign side of the pendulum. As the current theory goes, just having a foreign flag may not be enough; the manager must himself be something of a name-brand, and so they’re willing to spend to get one.Among the top names in line for the job is Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic, who stood at the helm of Algeria’s World Cup squad in Brazil, who lost 2-1 in extra time to eventual champion Germany in the round of 16. He also guided Cote d’Ivoire, a country far more at peace with hiring from overseas (typically French), through qualifying for South Africa 2010, though was not around for the actual World Cup that year.

Though maybe not quite that much money: already eliminated from consideration is Frank Rijkaard, whose salary demands were too rich for Egypt’s tastes. Being a skilled worker has its limits.


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