Naturalization of Al Wahda star Sebastian Taglibue would herald new era for the UAE

Sebastian Tagliabue switch for UAE could herald new era, says Al Wahda chairman

Matt Monaghan 2018/09/11

A rumoured ground-breaking decision to imminently allow prolific Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue to represent the UAE at 2019’s Asian Cup could herald a new era of naturalization as “more will come”, says Al Wahda chairman Ahmed Al Rumaithy.

Al Khaleej newspaper reported on Monday that the Arabian Gulf League’s record foreign goal scorer – with 111 strikes in 113 matches for the Clarets – could be given his Emirati papers before January 5’s continental kick-off against Bahrain on January 5. The uncapped 33-year-old became eligible this summer under FIFA rules as he has been a constant resident since he was purchased from Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab Riyadh during June 2013.

“Concerning Tigali [his nickname]; First of all, the UAE nationality it is an honour for anybody who holds it,” tweeted Al Rumaithy on Tuesday.

“Second of all, he is not the first player and he is not the last. More will come.

“Third of all, Al Wahda have a lot of support from the national team and there is no benefit for just adding a substitute player – we will not compromise on this. We have kept the player for more than five years and that makes it easy.”

Of Alberto Zaccheroni’s squad, 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman was born and raised in Saudi Arabia as a member of the Yemeni diaspora. He received his UAE documents as a teenager prior to 2006’s switch to Al Ain’s academy.

Veteran centre-back Ismail Ahmed was born in Morocco, but was naturalized as an Emirati citizen. He’s been a key figure since his 2012 debut.

Of the current crop of foreign stars in the AGL, leading Brazil-born Al Wasl forwards Caio Canedo and Fabio De Lima are one year away from reaching the five-year threshold.

Midfielder Ibrahim Diaky was granted UAE citizenship in 2006. But he had already played one World Cup qualifier for Ivory Coast in 2001 and was ineligible for his adopted nation.

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