Klinsmann recently stated that he would not consider Valerian Ishmael for the National Team because he has no ‘connections’ to Germany, and many more fans here on this website have supported Klinsmann’s decision. I, however, will argue that Klinsmann is wrong to deny Ishmael a place on the roster based solely on his ‘connections’ to Germany or lack thereof. First, defining and assessing an individual’s connections to a country is a thorny matter as who is to say what a ‘connection’ is. Does having connections to a country mean… Having been born in Germany? Having been born to German parents? Having grown up in Germany? Being able to speak the language? Knowing and understanding the culture? Having lived there for an indefinite period of time? or Having worked there (playing professional football perhaps)? Is it one of these, some of these, or all? I hold a German passport despite meeting only one requirement (the second), yet Ishmael has fulfilled, at least the last two criteria and possibly more. It is quite conceivable that Ishmael is far more connected to Germany than I am and more than I ever will be, yet I’m the one who holds a German passport and not he. Klinsmann’s having ‘connections to Germany’ is a standard which he arbitrarily chose and could just as easily be changed tomorrow, which is why his standard measure doesn’t hold water. The German Football Federation could and probably should make the guidelines a little more clear. If Klinsmann were replaced tomorrow as national team’s trainer, it’s just as likely that the next coach would deem Ishmael quite German enough to represent Germany at next year’s World Cup finals. Speaking of the German Football Federation, their decisions to allow some non-Germans to play for Germany yet to deny the same right to other non-Germans has only muddied the waters. In short, their decisions have been inconsistent. A current member of the German U-21 team was recently given citizenship despite having been born in Africa and having been raised there. Moreover, he only decided on German citizenship after he was refused citizenship by Holland. On the other hand, Ishmael was born and raised in Eastern France, in the city of Straussburg, just outside Germany, and, which, at one point in history, was part of Germany. Ishmael may have had German friends growing up, may have listened to German radio, and may have watched German TV programs. Heck, he may even have taken weekend trips to Germany for all we know. The fact of the matter is that he was born and raised just outside of Germany and so it is not unreasonable to suggest that he may have some very tenable connections to Germany. Now, I ask you, my friends on bigsoccer, who do you think has more connections to Germany? Ishmael or the player on the U-21 team, whose name escapes me at the moment. Of course, Valerian Ishmael probably has a greater understanding of the language and culture and probably has a lot more connections to Germany than the German youth international. I realize that the youth international sought citizenship in Europe because he hails from a war-torn region somewhere in Africa. However, that is of no consideration as Klinsmann stated that the standard was ‘having connections to Germany.’ In this respect, the German youth international does not meet the criteria. I would now like to offer what I think is a fair standard by which to gauge how connected an individual is to a country. First, does he/she speak the language? If yes, than I would argue that that individual is very well connected to the country in more ways in than one. First, it takes time to learn a language and be able to reproduce it fluently, especially if one hasn’t studied it beforehand. I would say that it requires a good two to four years for the average individual. Language is primarily learned through repeated social interaction with a group of people who speak the target language. And, of course, constant social interaction gives one a better sense of a people’s culture. Culture includes everything from social mores, values, and the way in which a people in a given society interact with one another on a regular basis. Ishmael qualifies as having connections to Germany if he meets the above requirements, notably, possesses the ability to communicate fluently in German as this opens the door to understanding the culture. And once he’s got that, I’m not sure what more one could ask of him. All of the above aside, I would argue that allowing Ishmael to represent Germany would be a move to balance the scales of equilibrium which have been swung out of balance due to the decision of some players (Kovac, Klasnic, and others) to not represent Germany despite having been born in Germany, raised in Germany, and having played their youth and professional football in Germany. (It goes without saying that these individuals can also speak the language.) Nationalizing Ishmael would more accurately reflect the footballing talent that has come out of German Football in recent years. In that way, nationalizing Ishmael should not be regarded as an unfair move to further strengthen Germany but rather a move to bring Germany level to where they would be at if other players had not decided to play for other countries. Remember too that the Kovac’s and the Klasnic’s have decided to represent nations to which they may have very few connections, not withstanding the strong ‘connections’ to and established roots they may have in Germany. In conclusion, if Klinsmann denies Ishmael a place with the German National Team, he’ll have to come up with better benchmarks than ‘connections’ to justify his decision. Such an arbitrary benchmark grounded in shades of grey does not suffice. Coming up with new criteria for what ‘connections to Germany’ means will be difficult, however, considering the inconsistent decisions of the German Football Federation as to who gets to play for Germany and who doesn’t, notwithstanding certain other factors. If Ishmael were to meet certain requirements, which are usually required to qualify for citizenship, then I see no reason why he should not be allowed to represent Germany.