KELANTAN hope to register Australian-born midfielder Brendan Gan as a local player next season after submitting an application to the FA of Malaysia yesterday, which if approved, could have far-reaching implications on the M-League and the national team.
Citing Fifa eligibility regulations on nationality, Kelantan argued that Brendan's ancestral ties to Malaysia through his Malaysian-born father demonstrates that there is a clear link to the country as permitted by the rules, regardless of citizenship.
Under Article 6, Annexe 2 of Fifa's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, it is stated that a player who is eligible to represent more than one association on account of his nationality, may play an international match for one of these associations if he was born on the territory of the relevant association, has a parent or grandparent who was born on that territory or has lived continuously on that territory for two years.
In Brendan's case, as he has not represented Australia at senior international level, he is eligible to play for Malaysia under Fifa's regulations even if he is not a Malaysian citizen.
Kelantan cited this regulation in a letter submitted to FAM yesterday by FA general secretary Azman Ibrahim, which was made available by former Kelantan FA president Tan Sri Annuar Musa on his Facebook page.
"It is well noted in common law that 'nationality' and 'citizenship' differ in its interpretation thus we are clear that Brendan need not be given citizenship to qualify as a Malaysian national," Azman wrote.
"All Fifa documentation speaks of nationalities and not citizenship or passports (if not) Fifa regulations would read 'citizenship' or clearly define a passport requirement (for the player to be considered a Malaysian national)."
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Timor Leste national teams use foreign-born players with family ties to their countries while Indonesia and Singapore also grant citizenships to players who have fulfilled the residency requirement.
Brendan, who signed a two-year deal with Kelantan, played for Sabah in 2011 as one of their foreign signings and even then the issue of his representing Malaysia at the Sea Games was brought up.
But FAM has always maintained an unwritten policy of only selecting citizens to play for the national team, which appeared to rule out Brendan despite national coach K. Rajagobal and national youth coach Ong Kim Swee expressing interest in the player.
Kim Swee even spoke to Brendan in the hope of using the player at the 2011 Sea Games, which Malaysia won, but an injury to Brendan during the season made the issue a moot point.
However, with Kelantan forcing the issue through an official application, FAM will be forced to make a stand on an issue which could put them in conflict with Fifa.
Brendan, 25, had previously expressed an interest in playing for Malaysia if he is allowed to.
"It has always been in the back of my mind to play for a national team," Brendan told Astro Awani in a 2011 interview. "It so happens that I am one of the lucky ones able to play for two nations."
If FAM allows Kelantan's application, Brendan would immediately be eligible to play for Malaysia and open the door to other foreign-born players with ties to Malaysia to join the national team.