Amid heightened debates about which side the young prodigy will pick, Koeman, the Dutch national head coach, seems confident that Ihattaran won't be playing for Morocco come September.
Rabat – Ronald Koeman, the head coach of the Oranje, the Dutch national football team, has just made plain his desire to do everything in his power to thwart Morocco’s quest to convince Mohammed Ihattaren to play for the Atlas Lions.
Ihattaran, the 17-year-old PSV Eindhoven attacking midfielder whose stellar performances for club have sparked a strong interest from Morocco, his country of origin, and the Netherlands, his birth country, is currently at the center of a tense-looking feud between the two national teams.
Both countries have recently called up the teenage player for upcoming matches.
Morocco’s newly appointed head coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, has picked the PSV Eindhoven player for his list of pre-selected players for the Atlas Lions’ upcoming friendly games in September.
For its part, the Netherlands called up the youngster for a spot in its youth squad for the Euro U21 qualifier game against Cyprus on September 10.
Amid heightened debates about which side the young prodigy will pick, Koeman is seems confident that the youngster won’t be picking Morocco over the Netherlands. “Ihattaran cannot play for Morocco in September,” he said in an interview.
More than a declaration of intent, the Dutch coach’s firm comments, which he made in a recent interview with Dutch outlet Studio Voetbal, came with the suggestion, as MWN previously reported, that the Dutch are in no mood to let go off Ihattaren.
Koeman said just as much in the interview, promising that the paperwork will be made tough for Ihattaren should he decide to pick Morocco over the Netherlands.
“In case Ihattaren chooses to play for Morocco, he will have to follow some procedures, including filling in a formal request declaring his intention to join Morocco.”
The process Koeman describes has nothing to do with the FIFA regulations dictating a player of dual citizenship’s decision to pick between the two countries he is eligible to represent.
The process of filling in a formal request is often the last resolve for a player at club level when his ambitions or well being do not dovetail with that of the club he happens to find himself at.
This was the case with Brazil’s Philip Coutinho when he decided to leave Liverpool for Barcelona. It is also currently the case for Neymar, who has formally requested to leave France’s PSG for another European giant.
But when it comes to choosing the country a player wishes to represent, the player has no obligation to notify the country he is ditching. As long as he has not played for a given country in an official FIFA game, a player is free to choose any national team he wishes to join.
In his interview, Koeman, fully aware of the FIFA regulations, seemed to be exerting pressure on Ihattaren to make his final choice “sooner rather than later.” That comment is a direct, deliberate challenge to Ihattaren’s current position.
When asked about Morocco’s interest in him in an interview last week, the teenage player suggested he needed time to think before making his decision. “I am much honored to have been preselected [by the Moroccan coach]. It is a beautiful feeling. But I will not make my decision now,” he said.
Between a young and promising Dutch squad setting out to emulate, even revive the country’s past, glorious days and the reportedly well-known tendency among Moroccan parents in the Diaspora to convince their children to choose the fatherland, Ihattaren’s will be a tough choice to make.
Meanwhile, for all his strong-willed declarations about making it hard for Ihattaren to choose the Lions over Oranje, Koeman seems to understand that, at the end, and regardless of his pressure, the final call will fully be the player’s—and his parents’.
“In any case, the decision is entirely up to him and his parents. But he will have to make up his mind sooner rather than later,” said the Dutch coach.