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Jack Wilshere forced to clarify remarks

Jack Wilshere has been forced to defend himself against claims of parochialism, after he came in for criticism following his suggestion that only those people born in England should be able to represent the  national side.

Among those who spoke out against the Arsenal midfielder was England’s South African-born cricketer, Kevin Pietersen, who replied to Wilshere: “Interested to know how you define foreigner…? Would that include me, [Andrew] Strauss, [Jonathan] Trott, [Matt] Prior, Justin Rose, [Chris] Froome, Mo Farah?”

In response, Wilshere tweeted: “With all due respect Mr Pietersen the question was about Football! Cricket, cycling, Athletics is not my field!”

Pietersen hit back: “Same difference.. It’s about representing your country! IN ANY SPORT!”

Suitably chastened, the 21-year-old attempted to clarify his original remarks.

“To be clear, never said ‘born in England’ – I said English people should play for England.

“Great respect for people like KP, Mo Farah and Wilf Zaha – they make the country proud.

“My view on football – going to a new country when ur an adult, & because u can get a passport u play 4 that national team – I disagree.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger came out in support of his midfielder .

In an interview with BBC Sport Wenger said: “I agree with him. I always said also an Englishman should manage the England team.”

Elsewhere, FA chairman Greg Dyke, believed that England should be entitled to utilise all players who are eligible, regardless of their nationality.

“We wouldn’t have had Mo Farah on that basis,” he said, speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge. “I think that is too extreme.”

However, unquestionably the most pithy comment came from comedian Frankie Boyle.

If nothing else, Wilshere’s remarks have sparked a debate about nationality in sport. There do need to be rules in place to prevent the wholesale purchase of players by individual states. This is what distinguishes international football from club football, and if the former ever emulated the latter, its entire raison d’etre would be lost.

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