Deklan Wynne's move to the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS has come at the perfect time.
It's another Kiwi footballer in a professional environment but, more importantly, it will bring into sharp focus the limitations of Fifa's eligibility laws. Will Wynne be forced into international exile or will sanity prevail?
The 20-year-old will never be eligible to play for New Zealand under the strictest definition of Article 7 of the Fifa statutes. That's because he won't be able to fulfil the five-year residency requirement after the age of 18. He also, most likely, wouldn't be eligible to represent South Africa - his birthplace - because he has played for New Zealand. He'd be permanently stuck, like Tom Hanks' character in Terminal.
That's clearly silly and, hopefully, Fifa can see the logic of an exemption. But Wynne could also become a poster boy for an eligibility debate.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
In countries with heavy immigration, like New Zealand and Australia, there are many more Deklan Wynnes. Without an exemption to Article 7d, it's hard to see how they could make something of themselves in the game, which would be the last thing Fifa intended.
Promising players need to be in professional environments by their late teens or early 20s at the latest. After that, it's too late - they're too far behind physically and technically.
However, under the Article 7 clause, any player raised but not born here, and who doesn't have New Zealand heritage, faces a dilemma. They can only play international and professional football if they delay moving offshore until they're 23 or are signed by the Phoenix.
If players in this scenario want to go overseas before they're 23, they could be forgoing their chances to ever represent New Zealand. It would be a horrible and unnecessary choice to be forced to make.
There is nothing essentially wrong with the spirit or intent of Article 7. Fifa had to do something to stop the trafficking of young South American and African players by Middle Eastern and European nations to preserve some of the integrity of the international game.
But they also need to be empathetic towards the realities of migrant populations in some countries, and provide a process to keep pathways open for all.