THE retirement of Ryan Nelsen is set to be somewhat softened by confirmation Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante is switching allegiance from Australia to New Zealand.
The defender will have completed five years’ residency in New Zealand in March, making him eligible for his adopted country.
He has decided to apply to Fifa to assess his eligibility and may be able to take to the pitch for the All Whites as soon as late March.
It would be some comfort to New Zealand Football, following the news that stalwart Nelsen is poised to hang up his boots.
Nelsen is set to swap Premier League club Queens Park Rangers for a coaching role in the American league.
Durante’s switch is not certain, however, with Fifa strict on those wanting to change nations.
In his favour is the fact he never took to the pitch for Australia, although was on the bench for an Asian Cup qualifier in 2010.Durante told APNZ he was cautiously optimistic about his chances.
He said he had been mulling his options for some time, and it wasn’t a reaction to Nelsen’s move back to the MLS with Toronto FC.
“It makes no difference to me, really. I’m going to pursue going down that path, regardless of if Ryan was around,” he said. “Obviously, not being selected in the Socceroos has made the decision a lot easier. It’s my birth country and obviously very close ties with it.
“But I’ve got very close links to New Zealand now – I’ve been here for five years, I’m captain of the only professional football club here, my daughter was born here, I own property here. It’s home to me at the moment, it feels right and Ricki’s quite keen for it to happen, which is always a positive, and the players have also been really positive about it.”