FIFA change eligibility rules for international players

FIFA have announced a change in their eligibility rules that will make it easier for players to switch national teams in the future.

Players who have featured in less than four national teams games, including World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, can now play for another country under the new regulations.

The only exclusion is if one or more of these games were at the World Cup finals, or continental finals, in which case the switch cannot be made. The appearances must also have come before the player turned 21.

The player must, of course, also be eligible to represent his new country, through either family ties or residency.

It will no doubt be of interest for national team coaches in the COSAFA region, who could suddenly have a new set of players available to them.

The new rules have been brought in to spare players who feature for one country early in their career, but are then discarded and face no international future.

Under the old regulations, if you played just a single minute for a national team in a competitive game, you were tied to that country for the remainder of your career.

African nations with big diaspora in Europe are the most likely to benefit, with many having players who turned out briefly for one nation, never to be seen again.

An example of this is Munir El Haddadi, who played 13 minutes for Spain in 2014, and so was excluded from playing for Morocco. He can now represent the north African nation.