In writing Enemy Brothers in 1943, British writer Constance Savery would have had little idea that the title of his novel would find an echo in the football world. Yet, as FIFA.com reveals, the game has thrown up many cases of siblings who have chosen to represent different countries, the Boateng, Pogba, Cahill and Vieri brothers providing just a few examples of players from the same family pledging their allegiance to rival nations.
Face to face
Prince Boateng Senior left Ghana in 1981 to study in Germany. Though his two sons, Jerome and Kevin-Prince, began their professional careers side by side at Hertha Berlin, they have faced each other on numerous occasions in the Bundesliga, most recently when Bayern Munich took on Schalke 04 on Matchday 6 of the German league last Saturday. The Boateng boys have even squared off in the FIFA World Cup™, Jerome running out for Germany and Kevin-Prince for Ghana in the Group D match between the two countries at South Africa 2010.
Speaking to FIFA.com before that match, which ended in a 1-0 win for the three-time world champions, Kevin-Prince said: “It’s going to be special for me. I promise the Ghana supporters I’ll be doing all I can to win, no matter whether I’m up against my brother, my father or my mother.” Jerome was equally enthusiastic about the unusual match-up: “I live in Germany. I love the people there and the mindset. Kevin’s choice was entirely up to him. He’s still my brother and I’m happy for him.”
Though they have yet to cross swords in a World Cup, Steve and Parfait Mandanda know what it means to face each other across the international divide, having respectively represented France B and Congo in a friendly two years ago. The only thing was, they were not on the pitch at the same time, with Steve appearing for the French in the first half only and his brother coming on for the Africans after half-time. Their decision to play for different countries could well be a wise one as both players are goalkeepers, though one can only imagine the headache their coach would have if they ever played for the same team.
The story of the three Pogba boys is not quite the same that of the Boatengs and the Mandandas. Paul kicked off his career in France, while his two brothers, twins Florentin and Mathias, both played for Celta Vigo in Spain and then decided to accept the invitation they received from Guinea, the country of their parents’ birth. In the meantime, brother Paul continued to shine, earning a move to Juventus and getting his first call-up to the full France team last March. It remains to be seen, however, if the three will ever lock horns at international level.
Scots is one of the UK’s regional languages and quite unlike the English spoken elsewhere in the world, a distinction that had an impact on the careers of three young lads called Jim, John and Tom Brown. Though born in Scotland, Jim chose to nail his colours to the American mast, forming part of the USA side that reached the semi-finals of the 1930 World Cup and scoring the only goal the Stars and Stripes have ever managed against Argentina. His younger brother John pulled on the blue of Scotland, however, while the outbreak of the Second World War prevented Tom from playing international football.
The first siblings to play for different countries were John and Archie Goodall. Though born to Scottish parents, neither played for Scotland, both opting for their countries of birth: John running out for England and the Belfast-born Archie playing for Ireland. At club level, however, the two were team-mates, forming part of the great Preston North End side that went undefeated in winning the league and cup double in 1888/89 before playing side by side for several seasons at Derby County.
Despite the fact both his parents were Scottish former striker Joe Baker appeared for rivals England in the 1960s. Discussing the dilemma, he said: “I was the first player in the Scottish league to play for England, which wasn’t easy for me because I felt completely Scottish.” His older brother Jerry made an even more surprising choice in crossing the Atlantic to play for USA, turning out for the Americans in the qualifiers for Mexico 1970.
Australia international Tim Cahill has made a name for himself by performing traditional dances whenever he scored, a custom inspired by the folklore of Samoa, where the former Everton player’s mother hails from. Tim’s brother Chris went a step further by deciding to play for Samoa, appearing for them in the Oceania qualifying competition for South Africa 2010.
Staying Down Under, Massimiliano Vieri, the younger brother of ex-Italy and Inter Milan sharpshooter Christian, formed part of the Socceroo squad at the 2004 OFC Nations Cup, though he never achieved the heights his older sibling did. A veteran of two World Cups with La Squadra Azzurra, Christian won a number of trophies during his long career in Europe.
Commenting on their career decisions, Max once said: “We’re two brothers who play for different national teams. It’s a bit strange, isn’t it? I hope we’ll be able to play against each other one day.” Sadly for him, his wish never came true.
The Bakers and Vieri brothers are from the only siblings to have played for countries on separate continents. Michele Andreolo represented Italy at the 1938 World Cup, while kid brother Raimondo made several appearances for Uruguay. Roy Wegerle excelled for USA, leaving his brother Steve to defend the colours of South Africa. In a similar vein, Royston Drenthe has pulled on the orange of the Netherlands, with kinsman Giovanni earning his stripes for Surinam, while Jose Luis Vidigal answered Portugal’s call, in contrast to brothers Lito and Jorge Filipe, who both went with Angola.
Finally, the case of Sone Aluko and his sister Eniola is unique in the game. While she has turned out for England at two FIFA Women’s World Cup™ finals and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, he made his debut for Nigeria 2009. Reflecting on his decision, he said: “I spoke about it with my family. They supported me and I followed my heart.”
Once such a decision has been made there is no going back from it, and as all these cases show and all these siblings will testify, football is a sport that knows no geographical or linguistic barriers.