How USA star Yunus Musah could have played for England


AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Yunus Musah shall be a centerpiece for the US males’s nationwide crew when it faces England in a essential World Cup group stage match on Friday, however he was shut — very, very shut — to taking part in for the opposite facet.

In reality, if not for a quirk of scheduling due to the COVID-19 pandemic two years in the past, Musah — who spent his teenage years rising up in London and representing England’s youth nationwide groups — would probably be that includes for the Three Lions as an alternative.

“We talked about it so much because there were a lot of feelings,” Musah’s older brother, Abdul, advised ESPN. “Looking back, the situation was so unusual. But I remember picking up Yunus at the airport after he came back from his first time with the US and I said, ‘How was it?’ and he looked at me and he said, ‘I’m not going anywhere else.'”

That conclusion appears easy sufficient, however attending to it was really fairly tough. Musah’s preliminary time with the US got here in November 2020 — a match window that may usually have staged World Cup qualifiers, however solely consisted of friendlies due to international journey chaos amid the pandemic. This turned out to be a key growth for Musah as a result of by rule, a participant with eligibility for a number of nations turns into dedicated to a rustic as soon as they play in a senior-level official sport for that nation. Friendlies do not depend.

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So, if there had been the often scheduled qualifiers as an alternative of exhibitions, Musah, who was born in New York City to Ghanaian dad and mom (his mom was on trip on the time) and was raised in Italy and England, probably would have turned down the US invitation to camp. “I don’t think he would have gone if he knew that going would have made the decision,” Abdul stated, including that he and Musah had been “very honest” with the England federation officers about Musah’s intentions.

“We spoke about it at home. We had to be so grateful to them,” Abdul stated, referencing his brother having played extra 30 matches for England on the youth degree. “But ultimately the decision comes down to: Can you chose them for what they have done?”

“Obviously they tried to convince us to stay. Some may argue that they could have done more. But Yunus wanted to try it.”

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Musah’s connection to the opposite younger rising stars on the US crew was speedy. Obviously taking part in time and a extra central place inside a crew are all the time elements for a dual-national, however regardless of the household’s connection to London, Abdul stated he could sense his brother’s ardour concerning the US instantly after these first exhibitions in opposition to Wales and Panama.

The US initially made contact with Musah by Nico Estevez, an assistant for the US who had connections at Musah’s membership, Spanish LaLiga facet Valencia. Musah’s conversations with US coach Gregg Berhalter had been actually constructive, however it was the ambiance he felt among the many gamers in camp that actually intrigued him.

“It was as if we’ve seen each other or met each other before,” Musah advised ESPN after finalizing his resolution. “And that that helps me because I’m new, and they welcomed me really well. In the end, we played two games really well and also had fun.”

Although he is much less well-known amongst informal US followers than Christian Pulisic, for instance, Musah — who will flip 20 on Nov. 29, the day the US faces Iran in its final group stage match — has been the decide of many observers to be the following American breakout famous person. His presence in midfield and his potential to maneuver the ball ahead into harmful positions can change a sport, whereas his character — he unofficially has the widest smile on the US crew — is relentlessly upbeat.

Abdul says his brother has all the time been that approach, including that their total household was raised to be humble and grateful for that which they have. In reality, when Musah was contemplating which English academy crew to affix, he was on the verge of signing with Chelsea however joined Arsenal on the final minute as a result of it was nearer to his home in East London, and the old-style clubhouse reminded him of the extra ramshackle crew he had played for as a boy in Italy. “The moment you entered, it felt like home,” Abdul stated.

With Ghanaian, English, Italian and American sensibilities, Musah’s total life appears like a novel combination. The solely Muslim on the US crew, he is been very conscious of the variations that include being in Qatar — the decision to prayer can typically be heard throughout US coaching — however the reality is that his each day routine has all the time been an amalgam of cultures.

At residence in Spain, Musah and Abdul, who lives with him, dip out and in of a number of languages, generally defaulting to Italian however then switching to English in the event that they’re speaking about, say, the Premier League. They love Ghanaian meals, like jollof rice, but additionally are nonetheless very choosy about having their pasta ready within the northern Italian model since that’s the place they lived till Musah was 9. Their humor could skew extra British, Abdul stated, whereas Musah’s musical and leisure tastes hedge American. If he will get a chilly, they fall again on Ghanaian natural treatments.

It is a tapestry. And for Musah, the consolation he feels to be all of these issues is rarely at concern when he is together with his American teammates. He can specific himself, each as an individual and a participant. And that potential conjures up a happiness in him that makes his total household grateful.

“From that first time, he felt as if he belonged,” Abdul stated. “England was amazing for him. But he feels so proud to be representing the USA. It’s where he wants to be.”


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