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December 19, 2022
HIGH FLYER: Rangers and Wales winger Rabbi Matondo.

I THOUHT Kim Jung Drakeford had banned Welsh right wingers but among the footballers tasked with supporting and replacing the ageing and ineffective Gareth Bale to help Wales -officially now ranked as the worst team at the World Cup – go on to qualify for major international football tournaments in the future is the decidedly non Cymru-sounding Rabbi Matondo.

RICH PICKINGS: Some squad members may have cashed in.

He was escorted off an Easy Jet aeroplane for “behaving disruptively” on his way back from a Wales training camp in Portugal in 2017 with even the normally colluding, compromised and conspiratorial BBC feeling obliged to report the unfortunate matter.

Born in Liverpool with a father who represented the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Matondo first opted for England at under-15 level but was able to switch to Wales purely, it appears, because his family relocated to Tremorfa in Cardiff when he was a young boy and he was educated at Llanishen High School but also, of course, had the far less enticing prospect of playing for DR Congo, where his father played, somewhere probably very, very far at the back of his mind.

Quite why the family relocated to Cardiff is not known to me and neither is the apparently bizarre and baffling conundrum of how he can play for three different countries and even switch from one to the other entirely at his own fancy. Perhaps, for instance, he will later represent DR Congo at some stage to truly consolidate the globetrotting profile of this richly rewarded journeyman, having played in German, Belgian leagues and for Stoke and Cardiff City.

FIFA, that scrupulously clean and admirable organisation which made it a condition for Argentina’s Lionel Messi lifting the World Cup his team won on Saturday (the only good thing was that France did not win it) that he did so dressed in a frighteningly hideous black Arab bisht or thawl though did not subject him to the further indignity of having to add ghutra and iqal while adopting a begging or praying position to Allah thankfully, has apparently altered the laws that relate to players adopting countries as if they had been born there or had some heritage there.

Their rule change in 2021 enabled Matondo, who did not make the final Wales World Cup squad, to switch from England to Wales, where his realistic prospects of success naturally are advantaged by the fact that there are far fewer competitive sportspeople vying for first team places so he is more easily able to help himself to some of the obscene riches which come with international representation.

In March 2004, FIFA amended its wider policy on international eligibility. This was reported to be in response to a growing trend in some countries, such as Qatar and Togo (surprise, surprise) to naturalise players born and raised elsewhere who have no apparent ancestral links to their new country of citizenship.

An emergency FIFA committee ruling judged that players must be able to demonstrate a “clear connection” to a country that they had not been born in but wished to represent. This ruling explicitly stated that, in such scenarios, the player must have at least one parent or grandparent who was born in that country, or the player must have been resident in that country for at least two years (presumably the loophole enabling Matondo to claim to be Welsh).

Only 12 of the 26 players in the Morocco team which lost to France in the semi-final were born in that country, with their captain born in France. Relatively few, too, in the French team were born in that country.

Matondo, currently a right winger with Rangers in Scotland, is already a company director with a contract until 2026 with the Glasgow team and is reportedly being paid £12,000 a week.

As this explains a business exists with no fewer than 12 different family members all named – none of whom live in Wales, incidentally – and with some interesting offshoots to other businesses, including security.

Matondo is about as Welsh as I am Congolese and I wonder if his decision to play for Wales is mainly a business one but that, of course, would be his business and not mine.

I note that Mr Matondo has complained of a “racist” element to criticism he has received online and that police have acted against perpetrators who allegedly targeted him. But Wales’s Red Wall Dafydd Iwan-led blatantly reactionary, rebellious Welsh language Yma O Hyd zealots inspired by nationalist extremists and fanatics emphasise a history and heritage which Mr Matondo appears to have little to no lived experience of through no fault of his own. Would he not have been just the kind of person moving into Wales had he been born earlier in the sixties and seventies Iwan would have been exercised by?

It is perfectly reasonable, however, for us to question his credentials and wonder what Wales is getting out of the deal if he is making no contribution from his growing wealth to this nation in the way of taxes and actual input and support without any reference whatsoever to his colour.

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