Would You Give Up Your Passport To Play For China? This is Li Ke

It’s definitely not what everybody does –to give up British citizenship,
say bye to your family,change your name
and leave your whole life behind really.There’s no going back.I’m Li Ke,
but you might know me as Nico Yennaris.I grew up in East London,
born in Leytonstone,grew up in Walthamstow/Chingford.I joined Arsenal’s academy
when I was seven, and I was there until I was 20. My contract was ending
and I had to start looking at, “Will I make it here, or do I need
to make a career somewhere else and work my way back up?” When I was a kid, I always wanted to play
in a World Cup or a big tournament. With my father being Greek Cypriot
and my mother being Chinese, there was always that conversation, “Who would you play for
if England won’t happen?” In China, there’s no dual citizenship, so if I wanted to play
for the national team, it became, “Would you give up
your British citizenship?” I was calm about it but my family
was probably more worried for me because they know
how strong the British passport is and I’m just basically throwing it away. So, I thought,
“OK, passport or International football?” For me, it was always football. Being able to think about
looking back on my career and saying, “I’ve done this and that”
to my kids and stuff, I think that outweighed the emotion
and the anxiety of moving.Saying goodbye to my family,
that was difficult, you know?Because I don’t think it sunk in for me
until I actually got out here.That’s when it hit me, it was like, “Wow, I’m 5,000,
10,000 miles away from home, in a new culture with a new language,
new surroundings, a new team… What do I do?”Beijing is amazing. It is amazing.When people ask me how good it is,
I just say, “Catch a flight and come and visit.
You won’t be unimpressed.”We only have one life
so we have to make the most of it,and when opportunities come like this,
you have to seize them and run with it.I’m always taking risks.If you spoke to my friends and family,
they might say “he’s mad”.My best mate came to live here with me – we grew up together,
played in the same team and we went to school together.It’s been amazing to have him here
and share the experiences with him.A lot of media. Just after I signed,
it was interview after interview, and so many people just wanting
to hear my story and where I come from.I definitely think
that my game has improved a lot.At international level, our biggest aim
is to get to the World Cup. Coming from Europe and becoming Chinese,
there’s kind of this whole, “You are used to European football.
You must bring that to the team.” It made me step up a bit more. It’s been an amazing year for me – just being the first naturalized player
to play and score in the league, and the first naturalized player
to play for China. Before every game,
they sing the national anthem, and obviously that was new for me, but it was an important part
of me becoming Chinese.To be able to learn it
was very important for me.I got it on my headphones
and had it on repeat.I learnt it quickly to be fair.Yeah, for my mother,
it’s an amazing feeling for herto see me put on the Chinese shirt
and represent the country.There have been a lot of players
going abroad now –helping to reclaim
or launch their careers –but I think I’ve taken that
to the next level.

21 thoughts on “Would You Give Up Your Passport To Play For China? This is Li Ke

  1. mad, ive always seen this guy in FM playing for cyprus in many saves. Also Tyias Browning formerly of Everton is also going to be playnig for china.

  2. Tyias Browning, former Everton trainee has also gone down the same route. Think there's also this Norweigan kid that plays with Nico made the same step. China is essentially doing their best to "recruit" and improve their national team

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