How US star Yunus Musah could play for England

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Yunus Musah will be the center of United States men’s national team when it faces England in an important World Cup group game on Friday, but he was close — very, very close — to play for the other team.

In fact, if it weren’t for the scheduling conflicts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, Musah – who spent his teenage years growing up in London and representing England’s youth national teams – would have may be replaced by the Three Lions. .

Musah’s brother, Abdul, told ESPN: “We talked about it a lot because there was a lot of emotion. “Looking back, the situation was unusual. But I remember picking up Yunus at the airport after he came back from his first time in America and I asked, ‘How’s it going?’ and he looked at me and he said, ‘I’m not going anywhere else.'”

That conclusion seems simple enough, but reaching it is actually quite difficult. Musah’s first time with the United States took place in November 2020 – a time when matches usually take place in World Cup qualifiers, but only include friendlies because of the global travel chaos amid the pandemic. pandemic scene. This turned out to be an important development for Musah because as a rule, a player who qualified for multiple countries would commit to a country after they played in a high-level official game of the country. that family. Friendship does not count.

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So if there were regular scheduled qualifiers instead of exhibitions, Musah, who was born in New York City to Ghanaian parents (his mother was on vacation at the time) and raised in Italy and England , will likely decline the contest. United States invites camping. “I don’t think he would have left if he had known that leaving would make a decision,” Abdul said, adding that he and Musah were “very honest” with British federation officials about their intentions. by Musah.

“We talked about it at home. We have to be very grateful to them,” said Abdul, referring to his brother who played more than 30 games for England at youth level. “But in the end the decision was: Can you choose them for what they did?”

“Obviously they tried to convince us to stay. Some might argue that they could have done more. But Yunus wanted to try.”

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Musah’s connection to other rising young stars on the US team was immediate. Obviously playing time and a more central position on the team are always factors for a dual national, but despite his family’s connection to London, Abdul said he can feel the joy. his brother’s passion for the United States soon after the first exhibits against Wales and Panama.

Initially, the United States contacted Musah through Nico Estevez, an American assistant who had connections at Musah’s club, the Spanish side of LaLiga. Valencia. Musah’s conversations with USA coach Gregg Berhalter were certainly positive, but it was the atmosphere he felt among the players in the camp that really intrigued him.

Musah told ESPN after making the final decision: “It’s like we’ve met or met before. “And that helped me because I was new, and they welcomed me very well. In the end, we played two very good games and also had a lot of fun.”

Although he is less popular among the average American fans than Christian Pulisicfor example, Musah — who will turn 20 on November 29, the day the United States has to face Iran in the final group stage match — was chosen by many observers as America’s next breakout superstar. His presence in midfield and his ability to put the ball in dangerous positions can change the game, while his personality – he is not officially the one with the widest smile on the team. USA team – always optimistic.

Abdul says his brother has always been like that, adding that their entire family has been raised to be humble and grateful for what they have. In fact, when Musah was considering which English academy team to join, he was about to sign with Chelsea but joined weapon last minute because it was closer to his home in East London, and the old-fashioned clubhouse reminded him of the more ramshackle team he’d played for as a boy in Italy. “The moment you walk in, it’s like being at home,” says Abdul.

With Ghanaian, British, Italian and American sensibilities, Musah’s entire life is like a unique blend. As the only Muslim on the US team, he was well aware of the differences when he arrived in Qatar — a call to prayer is often heard during training in the United States — but the truth is is that his daily routine is always a mix of cultures.

In his home country of Spain, Musah and Abdul, who live with him, speak multiple languages, sometimes defaulting to Italian but then switching to English if they’re talking about the Premier League, for example. They love Ghanaian food, like jollof rice, but are still picky about making northern Italian-style pasta because that’s where they lived until Musah was nine years old. Their humor may lean more towards the British, Abdul said, while Musah’s musical and entertainment tastes are unlike those of the Americans. If he caught a cold, they would revert to Ghanaian herbal remedies.

It’s a carpet. And for Musah, the comfort he feels is all about that is never an issue when he’s with his American teammates. He can express himself, both as a person and as a player. And that ability to spark happiness in him made his whole family grateful.

“From that first time, he felt like he belonged here,” says Abdul. “England is great for him. But he feels very proud to represent the United States. That’s where he wants to be.”


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