Gerets win tug of war against own country

JOHANNESBURG - Morocco's new Belgian coach Eric Gerets has won the first salvo in an expected tussle of loyalty with his home country over the international future of two emerging footballers.

On Thursday Morocco called up the Belgian-born striker Nacer Chadli for next week's friendly against Northern Ireland even though Belgium have also expressed a desire to cap the player.

Gerets also wants Standard Liege forward Mehdi Carcela, who has two full caps for Belgium, in the Morocco squad for the African Nations Cup qualifiers next year although the player still has to begin the process to change his allegiance.

Chadli, 21, who plays at Champions League campaigners FC Twente in the Netherlands, is one of two new players in the 21-man squad, but says he has not closed the door on a possible future role with Belgium.

"I will only make a definite choice once I figure out what is best for my career," the Liege-born Chadli told the Dutch magazine Voetbal International on Friday.

He said because next Wednesday's match in Belfast is a friendly only he could still choose later to play for Belgium.

Belgian coach George Leekens said he had been keen to call up Chadli but would now wait.

DEFECTION

"I'm going to leave him along for the moment, but he is welcome to join us. But none must be called up against their will," he told the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwblad.

Carcela, who was not named by Morocco for the trip to Belfast, met Gerets this month to discuss a defection from Belgium to Morocco.

The fact that his two appearances for Belgium were both in friendly matches means Carcela could still play for Morocco but having played competitive matches at under-21 level he must go through the process of applying to FIFA to switch his international status.

In September, Carcela refused a call-up by Belgium for their Euro 2012 qualifiers against Germany and Turkey saying he needed time to decide on his international future

FIFA said on Friday they received no application from the 21-year-old, born in Belgium to a Moroccan mother and Spanish father.

Gerets, who takes charge of his first match for Morocco in Belfast, is one of the famous names in the Belgian game, having won 86 caps for the country and several league titles as both a player and coach.