LONDON – Double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah hit back on Monday at Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere’s comment that only English people should play soccer for England.
The 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter champion, who was born in Somalia, told ITV’s “The Agenda” program that he was “very proud” to run for England and Britain, having arrived in the country as a schoolboy.
Farah, 30, moved to Hounslow, west London, when he was 8 as Somalia was struck by civil war, and is a longstanding fan of north Arsenal.
“It’s where I grew up, it’s where I went to school,” Farah said. “I don’t know nothing but England. This is it. And when I run for my country I’m very proud, and as long as you do that and make your country proud that’s what really matters.”
Rising Manchester United star Adnan Januzaj could play for England from 2018 under the five-year residency rule of soccer world governing body FIFA, although the 18-year-old, who is eligible for Belgium, Serbia, Albania and Turkey, has yet declare where his allegiance lies.
Earlier this month Wilshere, the 21-year-old Arsenal and England midfielder said: “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English.
“We have to remember what we are. We are English. We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat.
“We have great characters. You think of Spain and you think technical, but you think of England and you think they are brave and they tackle hard. We have to remember that.
“The only people who should play for England are English people. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain.”
Wilshere has since insisted he was not referring specifically to Januzaj.
Wilshere’s remarks sparked a Twitter exchange between himself and Kevin Pietersen, the South Africa-born batsman who is set to play his 100th test for England in next month’s Ashes opener in Australia.
Pietersen pointing to his own case and that of several other South Africa-born England cricketers, as well as Farah, said: “Jack Wilshere — interested to know how you define foreigner . . . ?
“Would that include me, (Andrew) Strauss (the ex-England cricket captain), (Jonathan) Trott (England batsman), (Matt) Prior (England wicketkeeper), Justin Rose (South Africa-born golfer), (Chris) Froome (Kenya-born Tour de France champion), Mo Farah?”
Wilshere clarified his remarks by saying: “To be clear, never said ‘born in England’ — I said English people should play for England.
“Great respect for people like KP (Pietersen), Mo Farah . . . — they make the country proud.”