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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 January, 2004, 17:24 GMT
French-born Algerian makes history
By Mark Gleeson
BBC Sport

Samir Beloufa
Samir Beloufa is hoping to join Antar Yahia in representing Algeria having previously played for France
French-born defender Antar Yahia has become the first footballer to profit from the change in Fifa's rules on international eligibility when he made his debut for Algeria in an Olympic Games qualifier.

Yahia, from the French first division club Bastia, scored the only goal of the 1-0 win over Ghana with a 19th-minute header for the Algerian under-23 side in Blida on Friday.

Yahia is a former French under-18 international but benefits from a change in the Fifa statutes, brought into effect in October after the organisation's congress in Qatar.

Previously, a footballer who had played for one country in a competitive international at both senior and junior level was not permitted to change nationality and go on and play for another.

But Fifa have introduced a new rule that allows a footballer capped at junior level to be able to later represent another country, but only as long as he possesses dual nationality and makes the request to change nationality under the age of 21.

Fifa have waived the age limit until October, allowing Yahia, who turns 22 in March, to start another international career in the colours of Algeria, from where his parents had migrated to France.

Yahia, who spent a season at Inter Milan in Italy, is also included in Algeria's preliminary squad for the African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia in January, along with two other players seeking to benefit from the change of regulations.

Samir Beloufa, now with Belgian club Excelsior Mouscron, and Ajaccio's Nader Ouadah also played in competitive internationals at junior level for France but are now standing by to make their full international debuts for Algeria.

Freddie Kanoute
Kanoute is hoping to transfer his skills onto the international arena for Mali

Officials from the north African country lobbied hard for Fifa to change their statutes in time for the players to be included in the squad for the Nations Cup finals.

It is also under the same ruling that Mali are seeking to use striker Frederic Kanoute of English premier league side Tottenham Hotspur at the Nations Cup finals.

Kanoute was capped several times by France's under-21 side in the European Championship qualifiers in 1999 and would not have been able to represent Mali, where his parents were born, until the statutes were changed.

The same ruling also effects Liverpool's Djimi Traore, who is also being sought by Mali for the upcoming tournament in Tunisia, and the St Etienne defender Heritra Ilunga, who is likely to play for the Democratic Republic of Congo.




SEE ALSO
Tottenham appeal over Kanoute
02 Jan 04  |  African
Pleat makes Kanoute plea
02 Jan 04  |  Premiership
Mali's problem solved
30 Dec 03  |  African
DRC 'ineligibles' could play
21 Oct 03  |  African



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