Matt’s Monologue: Switching Allegiances

Tennis player Aljaz Bedene is in the process of appealing to the International Tennis Federation so that he can play in the Davis Cup for Britain.

Currently, he is not eligible to do so because he has already represented Slovenia and he will miss this month’s final against Belgium as a decision is yet to be made.

This got me thinking; should a player simply be allowed to change countries as and when he or she chooses to?

Bedene qualified for British citizenship earlier this year, having lived in Welwyn Garden City since 2008.

However, he played under the flag of the country of his birth in the Davis Cup as recently as 2012.

Should he, having turned his back on Slovenia (for whatever reason) now be allowed to bypass other British players and represent the Union Flag in the sport’s biggest team competition?

We have actually seen similar instances across the world of sport.

Players pick to play for who suits them, despite having featured under a different flag.

Take football; they have a ludicrous rule that you can make your full international debut, but if it is only a friendly and not a competitive match, you can switch to a different one if eligible.

Former Tranmere defender Alex Bruce did it.

He played two matches for the Republic of Ireland between 2007-08. However, he did not quite make the grade and it was not until 2013 when he next tasted international football and played for…Northern Ireland. I bet that went down well!

Similar things have happened in cricket.

England captain Eoin Morgan was a hugely successful batsmen for Ireland in limited overs cricket but he outgrew them.

Soon, when the Three Lions came calling, he switched allegiances – Ed Joyce has done the same but been less successful and…wait for it…gone back to play for Ireland!

I personally do not think it is right.

You should make a choice at the start of your career (or whenever is the relevant point) and stick with it. Your country is your country!

This is not like club football where you can opt to go where and do it pretty much whenever you want. Representing your nation should be an honour – and I personally think if you are on to team number two, it really degrades the situation.

Now I have not got anything against Bedene. He is a hugely talented player and having met and interviewed him, I can tell you he’s a polite young man who is a pleasure to speak to.

But sometimes it is about sending the right message. What would it say about British tennis if Bedene had become eligible for the Davis Cup final and been picked ahead of the players who had got them there.

I think that right call has been made to delay his appeal (until March – it could have been made this week), and it will be interesting to see how the ITF finally sum things up.


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