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FIFA Announces Strict Guidelines on Players 'Switching' Nationality

Football's world governing body - FIFA - has announced strict guidelines to prevent players from quickly switching nationalities to countries where they have had no previous connection.

Wednesday's ruling comes after Qatar was trying to recruit three Brazilian players in an effort to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Hefty bonuses reportedly would have been given to the players for switching nationalities.

FIFA Spokesman Andreas Herron explained the emergency committee's ruling to VOA. "The candidate must fulfill at least one of four conditions. Either he was born on the territory of the relevant association. His biological mother or biological father were born on the territory of the relevant association, grandmother or grandfather were born on territory of the association, or the player in question has lived continuously for at least two years on the territory," he said.

The decision also says that players who obtained a new nationality "with no clear connection to that country" would be ineligible to play internationally for that country. Herron said the ruling has been well received. "For once, FIFA's standpoint has been widely welcomed. The media coverage has been rather in favor of FIFA saying, 'yeah, the national team is the national team,' and it really has a very special status. We now have a very clear-cut position and everybody will live with that. FIFA very much felt that the spirit of the game, the spirit of the statute, aim and the object of the statute is clearly to preserve that unique identification effect. I think in the long run, it really is for the good of the game," he said.

Qatar had offered passports to German-based Brazilian players Ailton, Leandro and Dede as the oil-rich Gulf state tried to build itself a world-class soccer squad. National team manager Phillipe Troussier -- the Frenchman who took Japan to the semifinals in the last World Cup -- has been trying to naturalize overseas players discarded by their national teams.

The 30-year-old Ailton had said he wants to play in the 2006 World Cup and believed he had no chance to make Germany's squad.

Qatar has previously lured athletes with cash. Last year, Kenyan-born steeplechaser Stephen Cherono and 5,000-meter runner Albert Chepkirui controversially changed their nationality to compete for the Gulf state. Cherono won the gold medal for Qatar in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the World Championships in Paris last August.