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15 sports stars with unexpected eligibility for another nation

Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | January 29, 2016

In light of Australian-born Brit Johanna Konta – also of Hungarian heritage – reaching the 2016 Australian Open women’s singles semi-finals, here are 15 other sports stars with perhaps unexpected heritage.

Despite her recent rise in the game, Konta has still unfairly not warmed the hearts of some supporters, but many of the below have had no such issues due to their successes…

Yannick Bolasie (football) – French

Everton v Crystal Palace - Barclays Premier League - Goodison Park

If only he waited a year or two, before declaring for DR Congo, Bolasie could’ve represented football powerhouses France (where he was born) or England (where he was brought up).

Sir Matt Busby (football) – Lithuanian

Soccer - Matt Busby

Former Manchester United managerial great Busby may be famously known as being Scottish, earning a sole cap as a player, but in fact his parents were immigrants from Lithuania who settled in Orbiston, North Lanarkshire before the First World War.

Sebastian Coates (football) – Scottish

Uruguay Chile Soccer WCup

Recently loaned out from Sunderland to Sporting Lisbon, Uruguay defender Coates can thank his father for his Scottish surname, and was even once reportedly approached to represent them.

Paulo Dybala (football) – Polish

Italy Soccer Serie A

Before 2015, promising Juventus forward Dybala was eligible for three nations, Argentina, Italy and more surprisingly Poland, but in the end decided to play for the former having been born and raised in the South American can country.

Jessica Ennis-Hill (athletics) – Jamaican

Jessica Ennis-Hill at 30 Package

Formerly just Jessica Ennis, the heptathlete from Sheffield is Britain’s golden girl, having won Olympic Gold in London 2012 as well as two World Championships. However, it is perhaps lesser known that her father is from Jamaica – which surely explains her ability on the track.

Radamel Falcao (football) – English

Radamel Falcao File Photo

Although the one sportsman on this list who was never eligible to represent the nation of his heritage, the Colombia and on-loan Chelsea striker must be noted for his English background – Selby in Yorkshire to be exact.

Geraint Jones (cricket) – Papua New Guinean

Cricket - Royal London One Day Cup - Final - Gloucestershire v Surrey - Lord's

Ashes 2005-winning England wicketkeeper Jones trumps Dybala with the number of nations he was once able to represent, as he was born in Papua New Guinea to Welsh parents and brought up in Australia. He most recently played for the scarcely explored Oceanic country.

Vladimir Klitschko (boxing) – Kazakh

Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury

Ukraine’s finest export, former world heavyweight champion Klitschko, was actually born in Kazakhstan when it was part of the Soviet Union. On top of that, his older brother and fellow boxing legend Vitali originates from Kyrgyzstan.

John McEnroe (tennis) – German

John McEnroe

Fiery American ace McEnroe was a seven-time Grand Slam winner in his playing career, but it is little-know that he was in fact born in Wiesbaden, West Germany in 1959, as his father was stationed there with the United States Air Force.

Ronnie O’Sullivan (snooker) – Italian

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Eight - Alexandra Palace

Many have called the cueist as the greatest snooker player of all time, and even one of England’s sporting finest, but had Ronald Antonio O’Sullivan wished he could’ve played under the flag of his motherland, Italy, or Ireland, where he grandfather was from.

Stuart Pearce (football) – Swedish

Stuart Pearce Photocall - Longford Village Hall

Many see ex-Three Lions left back Pearce as being English through and through, however the 53-year-old, who recently came out of retirement to play for non-league club Longford AFC, confirmed that his mother is Swedish.

Simone Perrotta (football) – English

Italy Soccer Serie A

A World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, Perrotta hails from Greater Manchester market town Ashton-under-Lyne and lived there until he was four, with his parents owning a pub there.

Justin Rose (golf) – South African

China Golf BMW Masters

Golfer Rose was the first Englishman to win a Major since Nick Faldo in 1996, when he claimed the US Open in 2013, but was born in South Africa – to English parents – and moved to Hampshire at the age of five.

Dillian Whyte (boxing) – Irish

O2 Arena Boxing

Another boxer features on this list, though this time a man at the other end of his career. Whyte is more notable for his Jamaican heritage, as he was born there, but his grandfather emigrated to the Caribbean from Dublin, Ireland.

Bradley Wiggins (cycling) – Belgian

Halfords results

Like others on this list, Tour de France and Olympic Gold-winning Wiggins is a multi national, being born in Belgium to an Australian father and British mother. Thankfully, he chose to represent the latter.

Related

Check out our 2016 Australian Open women’s singles final preview, as well as more from our tennis archive and trivia section.