AZ forward Aron Johannsson's potential international allegiance change from Iceland to the USA has been met with widespread excitement in America, especially on the part of U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann. That's not so much the case overseas.
The Iceland FA is livid over the proposed change, with U.S. Soccer submitting Johannsson's petition for a one-time switch to FIFA earlier this week. Iceland FA chief Geir Thorsteinsson is reportedly alleging that rules are being bent in order for Johannsson to join the USA -- his birth country -- and that FIFA should not approve the switch.
"This is against the laws of international teams, and absolutely not normal. I hope the Icelandic government also backs me in this," Thorsteinsson told Netherlands outlet NOS. "It's clear that he belongs to Iceland and no other country. If it stays this way, the rules are being abused.
"I've sent an open letter to the FIFA and U.S. Soccer association and asked them to cancel their plans. This is a real bad precedent. We are a small country, and we need everybody. I think that Aron will come back on his decision, especially if the people of Iceland ask him to make the only right decision."
For Johannson to be eligible for the one-time switch -- which USA players Edgar Castillo, Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Teal Bunbury have completed in past years -- he must meet a pair of requirements. He has to have never played in an official "A" level competition as determined by FIFA (i.e. a World Cup qualifier or regional championship such as the European championship or the CONCACAF Gold Cup), and he must have been eligible to represent both nations at the time that he played for one federation's youth team or senior team in non-A-level matches.
Johannsson has met those requirements. The 22-year-old forward was born in Mobile, Ala., but moved to Iceland when he was 3 years old. He has played for the Iceland Under-21 side, which is why he is required to go through FIFA's one-time switch process in the first place, but he was eligible to play for the USA at the time.
On the club level, Johannsson has blossomed in recent years, parlaying a prolific stretch with AGF Aarhus into a move to AZ last winter. After recovering from injury he scored three goals in five league games, and he has already tallied once this season, doing so in a SuperCup loss to Ajax last weekend.
“We are excited that Aron has chosen to pursue his international career with the United States. We have been in contact with him for the last several months,” Klinsmann said in a statement provided by U.S. Soccer upon the federation submitting his petition. “He is a great young talent with a bright future, and we look forward to introducing him to our team as soon as possible.”
Regardless of whether the FIFA switch is approved before the USA's friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo on Aug. 14, Johannsson is slated to take part in training with the Americans, according to U.S. Soccer. While his application is being reviewed by FIFA, he is ineligible to play for either Iceland or the USA, but he can train with Klinsmann's side in the sessions leading up to the match.