The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Debate over flood of foreign entrants

Berlin: Few would name the Bundesliga as the top league in Europe but when it comes to the number of foreign players, Germany is the clear leader.

The situation has sparked a heated debate in the soccer-mad nation which will be closely followed by neighbours also willing to tackle the issue.

German Football Association (DFB) president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder and Germany coach Rudi Voeller both fear that home-grown talent is being denied the chance to flourish because of the number of imported players and have called for urgent talks to address the problem.

“The DFB and the league must find solutions to allow more German players to play in the Bundesliga,” said Voeller.

The soccer chiefs face resistance from the biggest name in the German game, Bayern Munich, whose chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said he is against limiting the number of foreign players.

The former Germany forward said the league champions would always prefer foreigners to German players if they felt they were better and cited the example of Bayern’s new Dutch striker Roy Makaay.

Voeller spoke his mind after statistics from the second weekend of domestic action across Europe this season showed that more than 60 per cent of the players fielded by German clubs were foreign, compared with 33 to 46 per cent for the other major European leagues on the same days.

Only 78 players in the starting line-ups that weekend were eligible to play for Germany while the remaining 120 were not.

The Germany coach was also irritated by the fact that Schalke 04 started a Bundesliga match this season with just one German player.

Since the Bosman ruling in 1995, European Union (EU) countries have been forbidden to impose limitations on the number of EU players in a team.

German clubs are allowed to field five players from countries outside the EU at the same time in Bundesliga matches, which is more than most other European leagues permit.

Other countries, starting with Italy, have taken measures where the national federations have set a freeze on the number of players from outside the EU participating in their top domestic leagues.

England has also taken action, ruling that non-EU players can take the place of an English player only if they have played 75 per cent of their country’s internationals over the previous two years.

If that applied to Germany, former Bayern Munich striker Elber — who is not a regular Brazil international — would never have become the top Bundesliga scorer.

In England, not to mention Italy and Spain, most foreigners are high-profile internationals. In Germany, many are not but they are still experienced enough to take the place of promising German players.

Werder Bremen’s Ailton, for instance, has never played for Brazil but is nevertheless one of the most prolific Bundesliga scorers of the past few years.

While not as glamorous as other European leagues, the Bundesliga has tradition and can offer decent salaries and attendances of more than 50,000 on average for the top clubs. All that makes it an attractive working place for the likes of Ailton.

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