Kevin Pietersen and Jack Wilshere became embroiled in a Twitter spat last night as the row over foreign-born sportsmen representing England intensified.
In the build-up to England’s crucial double-header against Montenegro and Poland, Wilshere hit out at the idea that Manchester United rising star Adnan Januzaj could one day don the Three Lions.
The 18-year-old, who scored twice on his full debut for Manchester United at the weekend, was born in Belgium and could represent either Turkey, Serbia or Kosovo – but he would also be eligible to play for England if he remained in the country for the next five years.
It is understood that Januzaj will not make a decision on his international future until he is playing regular first-team football, and that any decision would be made in consultation with his father.
“The only people who should play for England are English people,” Wilshere said. “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English.”
Those comments clearly have not gone down well with England cricket star Pietersen.
Pietersen was born in Natal, South Africa, but has played 99 Tests for England after qualifying to play for the country through his English mother.
The three-time Ashes winning batsman is so proud of representing England that he has the Three Lions emblem tattooed on his left arm.
The 33-year-old on Wednesday reeled off a number of star sportsmen who represent the country despite being born abroad as evidence that foreigners can play for their adopted country with pride.
Pietersen tweeted: “@JackWilshere – interested to know how you define foreigner? Would that include me, [Andrew] Strauss, [Jonathan] Trott, [Matthew] Prior, Justin Rose, [Chris] Froome, Mo Farah?”
Wilshere tried to defend his comments by responding with: “@KP24 With all due respect Mr Pietersen the question was about Football! Cricket, cycling, Athletics is not my field!”
That did not satisfy Pietersen, however, who hit back with: “@JackWilshere same difference. It’s about representing your country! IN ANY SPORT!”
Wilshere again tried to play down the row: “@KP24 I agree that’s exactly what i was saying.”
Wilshere claimed earlier in the day that his press conference quotes had been misinterpreted.
The debate about sportsmen playing for England despite being born in a different country is nothing new, and Pietersen’s broadside demonstrates just how much of a sensitive subject it remains.
The fact so few English players are coming through the ranks now means the idea of Januzaj turning out for his newly adopted country is not as crazy an idea as it once may have seemed.
England boss Roy Hodgson has admitted he will be keeping a close eye on Januzaj’s development, while Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said his organisation is looking at its own boundaries regarding player eligibility.
Throughout this whole saga that Januzaj has not professed any declaration that he wants to play for England.
The winger is yet to pledge his allegiance to any country, and he is certainly not short of options.
The Belgian Football Association has been informed of this decision, but that did not stop coach Marc Wilmots trying to call up the midfielder for the upcoming qualifiers against Croatia and Wales.
Januzaj rejected that offer as the player is keen to focus on his club career for the time being.
The double-Olympic gold medallist was born in Somalia where he spent the first nine years of his life. His English father had met his mother while on holiday. His father returned to England and would only see his son on visits, prompting the family move to London.
The batsman who has made 99 Test cricket appearances for England, moved to the country after his professional cricket career had already begun. Born to an English mother and Afrikaner father, he grew up in South Africa.
The England rugby player was threatened with deportation in 2010 after it emerged he initially entered the country, aged 12 from Samoa, on a holiday visa.
The tennis star caused controversy in the 1990s after switching allegiance from Canada to Britain at the age of 19. Rusedski’s mother was English.
The South African runner applied for UK citizenship through her grandfather to compete for Great Britain at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics during the anti-apartheid ban. Budd represented Britain for four years before being suspended by the IAAF.