Former Arsenal youngster Nico Yennaris has, as expected, declared for China making him the first overseas-born player to represent the Chinese national team.
Nico Yennaris, who goes by the Chinese name Li Ke, qualifies by virtue of his mother who was born in the country even though Yennaris himself was born in England.
The announcement has been expected for a while.
Yennaris joined Beijing Guoan in January for around £5m from Brentford who paid Arsenal £90k for him.
According to a report in China Daily back in April, “China does not recognize dual nationality, so Yennaris has dumped his British passport. But he’s now eligible to play for his adopted country, currently ranked a lowly 74th by FIFA.”
“I hope to help Chinese football,” Yennaris said at the time. “And hopefully one day I can play for the national team as well and we will try to get to a World Cup.”
Yennaris was born in East London to a Chinese mother and a Cypriot father and came through the Arsenal youth ranks with Harry Kane. “Me and Harry played for the same local team, Ridgeway Rovers, then we both went to Arsenal. Then he left for Tottenham (aged 8),” Yennaris said.
Yennaris, now 26, featured four times for the Arsenal first team and 52 times for the u21s. He moved to Brentford at the start of 2014.
He has been named in Marcelo Lippi’s first China squad since his re-appointment. They will play the Phillippines on 7 June after their game against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Cup was cancelled due to a request by the Chinese Ministry of Sport to postpone the match for ‘organisational reasons’.