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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 18:04 GMT
Wenger backs Kanoute switch
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger thinks players should be allowed to switch nationality
Arsene Wenger, the manager of English premiership side Arsenal, has thrown his weight behind Fifa's new rules on player nationality.

The French coach says the move should put an end to the systematic plundering of top African talent by European countries.

Players with dual nationality are now allowed to play for one country at junior level but represent the other in senior competition, as long as they make the choice before they're 21.

African countries have lost many good players because of the old rules
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur are likely to miss striker Frederic Kanoute during the African Nations Cup, after he announced plans to switch from France to Mali.

"It is unfortunate for Tottenham because they didn't expect this situation, but the rules are the rules," Wenger said.

"The African countries have lost many good players, like Patrick Viera and Claude Makelele, because of the old rules.

"A good player in one of France's former colonies would be called up for the under-18 or under-21 team in order to make sure he could never go back to play for the colony.

"I think it is right they have now changed the rules because players will now be allowed to change their mind on decisions they made when they were only young," Wenger said.

"Young players are never going to turn down the chance to play at that level for France, but if they do not progress they can now change countries which they never could under the old rules."

The French-born defender Antar Yahia made history at the weekend when he made his debut for Algeria in an Olympic qualifier, having previously featured for the French under-18 side.

He is the first player to benefit from the new rules.

Tottenham Hotspur's argument is that the rules were changed after they signed Fredi Kanoute from West Ham United.

Wenger said the African Nations Cup is beginning to harm the prospects of African players signing for major European clubs - because teams are having reservations about taking on players and losing them for a month in the middle of the season.

"But if the English premiership bring in a winter break in January then it might fit in quite well," he said.

Stambouli certain on Kanoute
05 Jan 04  |  African
Wenger predicts winter break
04 Jan 04  |  Premiership
Wenger rules out January buys
24 Dec 03  |  Arsenal
Wenger: Fifa should keep away
20 Dec 03  |  Football

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