The All Whites will face Japan in a friendly match in March. But they won't be able to call on a player plying his trade in the Land of the Rising Sun.
3 News can reveal one of New Zealand's promising football stars, defender Michael Fitzgerald, has turned his back on the All Whites.
Born in Tokoroa, raised in Auckland, Fitzgerald's as Kiwi as they come. But when the 25-year-old was called up to the All Whites squad in October, he had to inform New Zealand Football he'd turned Japanese after he obtained citizenship in May.
"My big goal is to play in the J-League, change my nationality basically," he says.
"Japan doesn't allow dual nationality," says New Zealand Football high performance manager Fred De Jong. "He had to hand in his New Zealand passport, and at that point it precluded him from selection for the All Whites."
Fitzgerald's decision's transformed his career. It's freed up an import spot at his Club Albrix Niigata, and he's become a regular starter as a local, playing 15 matches in the club's most successful campaign.
His international career's a different story. After making his All Whites debut against China in 2011, he made two further appearances later that year, but hasn't played for the All Whites since.
"I probably would still be playing for the All Whites as a New Zealander because playing for New Zealand would have got me a lot of exposure as well," says Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald was never told why he wasn't re-selected, and there was not a lot of contact with coach Ricki Herbert.
"Every coach has their own style," says Fitzgerald. "I was fine with that."
A central defender comfortable playing anywhere, in the backline or as a defensive midfielder, Fitzgerald's versatility would have been an asset to the All Whites.
"It is a blow," says De Jong. "Any high-class player we've got playing internationally is a bonus for the All Whites."
A dream move to Europe would allow Fitzgerald to play for New Zealand again, but while he's playing in Japan the sun is set on his All Whites career.
source: newshub archive