A talented Brazillian footballer became Dutch the same week that parliament decided Angolan refugee Mauro should be deported, points out blog The Holland Bureau.
Douglas Franco Teixeira – Twente’s defensive rough diamond – has become a Dutchman. That is, according to his passport, not necessarily according to the Dutch people themselves.
During his five-year tenure in Holland he stands as a symbol of the growth of FC Twente’s team and success, but he is now in danger of becoming the linchpin in a new episode of national debates on migration and citizenship.
As a defender he has already been nominated by the UEFA for selection in its prestigious team of the year for 2010, but most of all he is the one that energetically fills most of the gaps in FC Twente’s defensive organisation on a weekly basis. In fact, no-one argues over the fact that the 23-year-old, two-meter-tall player has exceptional skills.
One issue is up for debate, though, and that is whether Douglas should be in the national team. The debate takes shape along a two-pronged axis: one of a sporting nature, while the other has a clear political component.
To start with the latter, the question arises to what extent the naturalisation of a highly equipped professional is against the nature of international competition. One country pitted against the other is the charm of this particular brand of soccer, some argue, and by including persons who have not been born in the country it automatically spoils the game.
Others hold it to be discriminatory to allow someone to become Dutch, but only under a set of conditions that limit his freedom of movement. It doesn’t raise any eyebrows to see a large share of the team in orange with roots in Surinam or Morocco, or to have a woman of Chinese descent win the European title in table tennis. But a football fan’s logic proves to be as elusive as ever.
In the same week that Teixeira received his passport, another event took place that cast a longer shadow over the immigration debate – the decision over the residence permit of 18 year-old Mauro.
Mauro’s story is a complicated one, with a foster family raising him as any other child, conmplete with the Limburg accent. His stay in the Netherlands has been terminated after the Minister refused to apply his discretionary powers to grant permanent residency, and a political row broke out in parliament, among the Christian Democrats, and in the media.
To some, awarding citizenship to a soccer player who only moved here as an adult while simultaneously denying it to someone who spent much of his childhood in this country is a worrisome expression of the inhumane trajectory that Dutch immigration policy is taking.
The more pressing question for football enthusiasts looking ahead to the European Championships of 2012 is: will the Dutch play with Douglas in the defensive line? This is an open-ended question, though, because as of yet there is no permission from FIFA.
The question is compounded not just by the immigration issue but also the question of whether the talented but sometimes over-zealous Douglas is fit to successfully defend for the runner-up team in the last World Cup. Some say his contribution is more than welcome, while critics say he’s not quite ready yet.
The facts of the matter are that Douglas revoked his Brazilian citizenship, the current Dutch defenders are the weak point of a strong team, and it certainly would not be the first time a controversial switch by a soccer player makes one nation cry of despair while, perhaps, the Dutch will start celebrating a new era of tolerance.
In any case – willing or not – the Dutch are now spectators to a touch of Dutch-Brazilian samba soccer in their own backyards.
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