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  • The Curious Case of Andy Najar


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    No. Sadly this post is not a sensational exposé about how MLS rookie of the year Andy Najar was in fact born with the physical appearance of a 70-year-old man and subsequently began to age backward. But it might serve as future reference material for migrant footballers around the globe wishing to dodge the awkward question of which country they’ll represent internationally.

    [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

    We’ve written about Najar previously. And as his stock continues to rise, so does the ambiguity of his statements about whether he will eventually don a Honduran or an American shirt for international play.

    At the beginning of November, Honduran coach Juan de Dios Castillo named Najar to the senior team for the first time, ahead of a friendly November 17 against Panama. Najar said no, because he would be in Toronto accepting his MLS rookie of the year award and that, anyway, he is still too young to join “a” national team. Don’t get him wrong though. Of course he’s happy to have been called, because it’s every footballer dreams of playing in “a” national team.

    “Me sentí contento de que me tomaran en cuenta en Honduras, porque todo futbolista sueña con jugar en una selección y estoy feliz”, relató el juvenil.

    The article I’ve linked above goes on to express at least three different viewpoints on this matter. Najar says that “he will think more in the future about Honduras.” In the following paragraph, his agent Chris Megaloudis says that Najar wants to be a star with Honduras. Or does he?

    “As we all know, one always carries their country in their heart. And in the future we will see what happens.” Huh? I thought you just said he wanted to star with Honduras?

    Whoa. Wait, back to Andy in the next quote here.

    “No le estoy diciendo que sí, ni que no a Honduras, con no ir a este partido simplemente estoy esperando el momento perfecto y tomándome el tiempo para decidir por quién jugar”, afirmó.“Le digo a los hondureños que no estoy apresurado y que más adelante se dará esa oportunidad, yo sólo pongo las cosas en manos de Dios, de que todo va a salir bien y que me ayude a tomar la mejor decisión”, finalizó.

    If you allow me a rough translation: I’m not saying to you that I say either yes, or no, to Honduras. By not going to this game I’m simply waiting for the perfect moment and taking my time to decide for who to play. I say to the Hondurans that I’m not pressured and that in the future I’ll be given this opportunity. I only put things in the hands of God, so that everything will come out well and that He’ll help me take the best decision.

    Wow! I know this kid is only 17 years old, but he makes Asmir Begovic sound like George Bush junior. And then in the same article, Juan de Dios Castillo says that he never actually spoke to Najar (despite the young player saying he thanked Castillo for the call) and that he still doesn’t know what the DC United player is thinking.

    In case you’re not sufficiently confused, Najar’s father told a different Honduran newspaper that it is more “feasible” that Andy play for the United States, because the Americans are helping him study and preparing him better as a footballer.

    “I know the Honduran supporters are going to feel bad if he makes this decision [to play for the U.S.], but anyway, it’s what he decides.” “But I don’t know what decision he will take.”

    Alright then. I guess that doesn’t settle that.

    From a Canadian supporters perspective, this story is important simply because if Najar chooses Honduras and turns out to be really good, then competing with Honduras for the final World Cup spot becomes that much harder. From a general sports fan’s perspective, it’s simply a fascinating story of a talented teenager trying to balance the pressure of an entire nation against what’s best for his career and the obligation he and his family clearly feel toward the country that has helped develop him thus far.

    An interesting sidebar to this is a recent online poll taken by a Honduran sports daily that asked: If you were Andy Najar, would you answer the call from Honduras or wait for one from the United States?

    Well, 44% said they would wait for the U.S., which strikes me as astonishingly high considering the patriotic fervour that surrounds that football program. Not to mention the Honduran fans I’ve seen personally at two matches in Montreal who’ve brazenly shown up by the thousands to cheer against their adopted country of Canada.

    I felt a weird, sort of grudging respect for those 44% who said Najar should wait. Although perhaps a better question would have been: If you were Andy Najar, would you travel to San Pedro Sula for a crucial World Cup qualifier wearing a United States shirt?

    - Grant



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