“If you’re born Chinese, well, you have to play for China” (Luis Figo)
I recently discovered a fun name game on Twitter by another writer who deals in all things Welsh football-related, @MirkoBolesan. Mirko (apparently not his real name) came up with the ‘Angel Rangel Name’ game; to play this all you need to do is take your surname and then drop the first letter (preferably a consonant) and place that word before your surname. For example, my ‘Angel Rangel name’ is ‘Arrison Harrison’ I’m not not sure how it works for those whose surnames begin with a vowel, but it does provide with you plenty of fun as you go through your friends’ names to see who has the silliest, singsong ‘Angel Rangel name’.
Anyway, the point is that Swansea’s Angel Rangel has a very memorable, slightly humorous and rhyming name. People I speak to that have never even seen Swansea play or know very little about them can usually name two players; one is usually Scott Sinclair, for his affiliation to Helen Flanagan (aka Corrie’s Rosie Webster); the other is always Mr. Rangel with his rhyming name. Over the past week or so, Rangel’s name has been cropping up more and more in the press, especially the Welsh media, as he is linked with an international call up. Yes, he has been great for Swansea over the past few seasons, but surely he’s not good enough to get into Spain’s elite European/World-conquering side? Exactly. He is not that good – but Rangel is not being touted to play for his home nation; he is actually being linked with a call up to the Welsh squad!
As of next month Angel Rangel will become eligible to play for the Welsh national team having resided in the country for the past 5 years following his transfer to Swansea in June 2007. Although this may seem a strange arrangement for many football fans on these shores, this ‘adopt a country’ culture is prevalent in football these days and is being deployed all around world football. Perhaps the best example in modern times was that of Deco, who many will remember excelling for the Portuguese national team, despite being born in Brazil and having no family connections to Portugal at all. Deco qualified to play for Portugal through FIFA’s alering of their national eligibility laws in 2004. Pre – 2004 the eligibility rules stated:
FIFA statute (Article 17: Acquisition of a new nationality)
Any Player who wants…. to assume a new nationality and who has not played international ….shall be eligible to play for the new representative team only if he fulfils one of the following conditions:
(a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
In 2004 an additional condition was added to Article 17:
(d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association.
The extra ruling added in 2004 is what essentially made Deco Portuguese. The Portgual-isation of Deco led to a strong, heavily-divided debate on whether he should be allowed to represent Portugal. Deco was adored by Porto fans at the time, but even they were conflicted, as many were vehemtly against a Brazilian donning their nations national colours. The quote at the top of this article is from Portuguese legend Luis Figo, who was also against Deco’s inclusion. Ironically, Deco’s 1st cap would come against his place of birth, Brazil in a 2-1 victory to Portugal – never guess who scored the winner?
It is the new ruling that has led to players such as Mikel Arteta and Manuel Almunia (eh?) being linked with England call ups over recent years and that has offered Rangel his very own potential international career path.
Rangel has become an immensely popular figure amongst Swansea fans and I really do like him (I once met him in Swansea’s Oceana and he was an extremely nice guy – from what I can remember anyway). I have been a massive Angel Rangel fan since he arrived at Swansea in 2007. Martinez had just taken over the reins of Kenny Jackett’s stuttering team in March 2007 and despite a good effort at trying to make a last ditch push for the playoffs, it ultimately didn’t come off after a 6-3 defeat to Blackpool (one of the best games I’ve ever been to) on the last day leaving Swansea outside of the Playoff spots. Martinez opted for a large squad overhaul in the summer of 2007 signing Ferrie Bodde, Dorus De Vries, Paul Anderson (on loaned from Liverpool) and Swansea’s very own Three Amigos (mimicking the Three Amigos that Martinez was a part of when he arrived at Wigan): Andrea Orlandi, Guillem Bauza and Angel Rangel.
Rangel arrived with little fanfare and was a complete unknown to most at the club, but after a handful of games at the start of the 2007/2008 season it soon appeared that Martinez had struck gold. Rangel was only signed by the club for a measly fee (reported to be around £20k) from Terrassa, a team playing in Spain’s Segunda Division B (third tier of Spanish football). In his debut season for Swansea, Rangel featured in 48 league and cup games, also netting twice, and helped the team win the League One title and promotion to the Championship. Rangel also made the PFA League One Team of the Year after impressing all season with some strong defensive displays, but more notably with his attacking prowess from right back. Rangel’s showed great consistency throughout his first season playing in League One, rarely missing a game and hardly ever delivering a below par performance.
Despite being injured for the opening games of Swansea’s return to the Championship, Rangel once again featured prominently and impressively throughout the rest of the season, as Swansea had a successful first campaign in the Championship. After another season in the Championship, this time under new manager Paulo Sousa, Rangel was beginning to be linked with a move away from the club. Rangel was very outspoken about the club’s supposed reluctance to sell him in the mid-season transfer window to Fulham, although chairman Huw Jenkins denied any real offer coming in. Following Blackpool’s promotion to the Premier League, the Spaniard was also linked with a move up to the top tier with the Seasiders. Despite Rangel being in the last year of his contract, the club refused to cash in on him and once again he proved to be a vital cog in the Swansea team, now managed by Brendan Rodgers. By the end of the 2010/2011 season Swansea were promoted to the Premier League via the Playoffs and Rangel opted to sign a new 3-year contract with the club in the summer, alongside several other players, in preparation for Swansea’s maiden Premiership season.
Throughout his 4 seasons at the club Rangel has been an integral part of the team and has fitted into the Swansea ethos exceptionally well. He is a true footballing right back and this has been demonstrated in the OPTA stats for this year’s Premier League with Rangel (2273 passes) having made the 5th most passes in the league just behind midfield maestro’s such as Mikel Arteta (2304), Yaya Toure (2419), Luka Modric (2534) and the league’s top passer: Swansea’s Ashley Williams (2594). Rangel has also made the 4th most interceptions of any player in the league. The stats demonstrate Rangel’s excellent football brain and perhaps hint that maybe he would be perfect for international football with footballing virtuosos Spain? Unfortunately, stats don’t tell the whole story and ultimately, despite being very good Rangel will not get anywhere near the exceptional Spanish team now, especially at the age of 29. In a recent interview Rangel even admitted himself:
“Spain are one of the best teams in the world — they won the World Cup — so it would be difficult to get into that national team. You have to play for Barcelona or Real Madrid or a top team like that to play for Spain, so it could be an outside possibility but I know it’s far, far away.”
So it looks like Rangel will not feature for his homeland anytime soon, but how about the country he now calls home? Is there actually any chance? Well, quality-wise, you could argue that Rangel would be a welcome addition to the Welsh squad, especially now that he is a consistent performer in the Premier League. You could even argue that Rangel may have been a more useful acquisition under the Toshack regime, as he could have perhaps embedded well into Toshack’s favoured wing back system, instead of Toshack relying on the more defensive minded Gunter to bomb forward. Gunter is actually being touted as a potential Swansea transfer target in the press over the past week, so he could even be battling Rangel at club level.
Although Rangel is a quality player, the right back position is not exactly a position that Wales are struggling to fill– Gunter, Eardley, Ricketts, Matthews are all more than competent right backs and perhaps more importantly, all 4 are actually Welsh! (Sam Ricketts was born in Aylesbury though). Which brings me onto my main rant….
I am a very proud Welshman and I love my country’s national football team; I am not an ultra-Welsh nationalist, but the whole idea of someone that is not actually Welsh playing for the national team does not sit well with me. I have never really been too keen on the whole idea of someone with Welsh grandparents playing for Wales, although I know that there are several in our current squad that fall into this category and I support them no different to any other Welsh international. I really do not enthuse over the new, more lenient, eligibility rules introduced in 2004. The most mercenary-like nationality in world football is arguably the Brazilians, who you can find playing in a whole number of national teams across the globe. For example, in the past decade Togo have had 6 Brazilian born players capped for them! Many countries seem to welcome Brazilian players into their national team with open arms just because they are one of football’s fabled Brazilians. The national game is almost becoming like the club game without the transfer fees, with nations trying to persuade individual players to ‘adopt’ their nationality. It may just be me but I find the idea of ‘adopting’ another national identity quite sickening.
Many people have pointed out that Rangel has immersed himself into Swansea life and has as much claim to ‘Welshness’ as anyone; his other half is Welsh and in October 2010 Rangel’s first son was born in Swansea’s Singleton Hospital: Angel Noel Rangel (the 8th Angel Rangel in a long held family tradition). When asked about his son’s future football prospects Rangel joked:
“If he is a great player, he can play for Spain. If he is not so good he could play for Wales.”
Rangel’s quote from a year and a half ago now resonates quite aptly with himself.
With Rangel appearing to have now settled in Wales for the long haul, many people believe if he wants to represent us, and if the FAW are keen on it, surely it is his choice. I feel the downfall in this argument comes when you hear Rangel also responding positively to suggestions that he could be eligible to play for England:
“England? Well I would think about it, for sure. The Spanish team was light years ahead when I joined Swansea. Now, any offer would be worth studying.”
That last sentence of Rangel’s sums up why I do not want Rangel representing my country. I can understand why players might adopt mercenary-like traits in club football, as they strive to chase what is best for their professional career, whether this is cups and glory or just money, but the idea of people flouting themselves about to play for national teams does sicken me slightly. The quote suggests to me that Rangel just wants to play for whatever nation that will take him, which for a passionate Welshman, is not good enough for me to want him representing my country.
If Rangel does dream of singing “Mae en wlad fy nhadau” someday, unfortunately, it looks like his dreams are probably unlikely to come true. For this, I return to the cases of Mikel Arteta and Manuel Alminia, who were both cited with possibly receiving England call ups following the reshuffling of the eligibility rules. Like Rangel, both players, although performing well in the Premier League, never looked like breaking into Spain’s star-studded squad. Both appeared to be keen on switching allegiances to the Three Lions (Capello even said that he had considered Arteta for some of his 2010 squads) and so ensued a national debate on the topic. As the debate heated up on foreign players’ eligibility to play for the Home Nations a sudden sting in the tail for prospective foreign nationals adorning the red/white/blue/green of Wales/England/Scotland/Ireland was struck, with the blow impacting mainly on another Spaniard who was hoping to represent another home nation.
Nacho Novo had plied his trade in Scotland for 8 years; he began his Scottish adventure at Raith Rovers before moving to Dundee and then onto his big move to Rangers, where the Spaniard would make a real name for himself. Novo was linked repeatedly with a call up to the Scotland squad and he came very close to earning it. However, the big stumbling block soon emerged as it transpired that the 4 Home Nations already had a gentleman’s agreement in place, which is still in place to this day; the agreement is that all 4 Home Nations will only include players in their squad that meet the ‘blood tie’ criteria and not consider foreign players with no blood relation to the country that they wanted to represent. The 4 countries opted to ignore Article 17’s additional ruling. The Novo story cropped up in 2008 and there has not been a player since that has come near breaching the gentleman’s agreement. It looks like Rangel will have to remain Spanish for a while longer!