Europe is currently the place where huge amounts of money are being made in football clubs and the sporting level is the highest in the world (considering clubs results), as evidenced by the results of the Club World Cup in recent years. However, it is South America, with particular emphasis on Argentina and Brazil, that is renowned for training technically fabulous footballers. South American players often become the idols of fans around the world due to their spectacular style of play. In addition, they can single-handedly decide the fate of the most important matches. Who has not heard of players such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Pele, Romario, Messi, Maradona or Zanetti?
Footballers from outside the European Union
The combination of all these circumstances makes European clubs very keen to attract players from Latin American countries. In turn, these players are equally eager to try their luck on another continent. This is happening at all levels of competition and in various European countries. However, this mutually beneficial mechanism has one weak point, discouraging especially the less known brands – Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and other American countries are not members of the European Union. Citizens of these countries therefore have difficult access to Europe. Moreover, many leagues have set special limits on the number of players without European citizenship. So what do players need to keep in mind? How to get to Europe and how to play football here?
First and foremost, players must try to get their stay in Europe legalized. Different countries have different systems of these permits, so the first recommended step is to go to the nearest consulate or embassy of the country to which the player wants to come. Most often there you can also submit documents with an application for a visa. Although the procedures are different in each country usually to obtain a visa you will need:
2. indication of the destination;
Without a document legalizing the stay, the player is not even allowed to enter Europe.
Brazilians and Colombians can enter even without a visa
Although some South Americans may find it difficult to arrive to European countries, Brazil has an agreement with the European Union that allows Brazilian citizens to come to the EU even without a special permit. However, such stay is limited to a maximum of 3 months during the consecutive 6 months. The footballer must therefore undertake procedures to legalize his stay in the country, but this is facilitated by the fact that he can already come and start training with his new team. Similar rules apply to some other South American countries, e.g. Colombia, although in this case the period of stay is shorter (90 from 180 days). It also happens that South American countries have separate agreements with selected European Union member states, e.g. Argentina has such an agreement with Poland. Situations even for neighboring countries can be extremely different, so each time a case-by-case analysis is necessary.
South American players – work permit
In addition to the residence permit itself, the legalization of the player’s work is also required. In most countries these are separate issues, but it is possible to obtain one document legalizing both residence and work. Normally such procedures can take from a week to several months, so in this aspect the support of the clubs will be invaluable. They are often able to speed up the formalities.
Normally for this type of permit you will need:
2. a contract with the club
3. documents and statements signed by the club.
In terms of work permits, individual country-specific facilitations are less common. On the other hand, the requirements for the footballers themselves can be very different. In England, for example, a player must play in a league with sufficiently high reputation to be granted a work permit. If the player has played in a league that is not good enough for the English authorities, his transfer to the UK could result in him being sent on loan to another European league for at least one season in order to obtain the experience needed in a recognized league.
Restrictions in the leagues
Aside from the issue of state permits, it is also important to keep in mind the limits on foreigners in the individual leagues. In Poland there cannot be more than 2 non-EU citizens on the pitch. In Spain and Romania, for example, there is a limit of 3 foreigners, in France 4, in the Czech Republic 5, and in Germany, Italy and Portugal even 11. Again, the solutions vary from country to country – the limit can apply to the registration of players for the upcoming season or to players on the pitch playing at the same time. Citizens of most South American countries count towards the limit, but there are exceptions in some leagues. In France, for example, Guyanese nationals are not included in the limit. The figures given above only apply to the highest divisions, the lower divisions may have even more restrictive rules.
South American players – how a football player should act
The first step is to establish a relationship with a club that will provide the player with a contract and a stable salary. Players from lower leagues may try to find employment in another sector as an extra. However, it is important to already have a signed contract that provides for a living wage while contacting the authorities regarding the player’s work or stay permission. The next steps depend on the level at which the player will play. At the lower levels the support in formal matters from the club will be very limited, so the initiative should be given by the player. The first steps in such a situation should be directed to the consulate or embassy. Professional clubs, on the other hand, much more often take care of the formalities and the only thing the player should do is cooperate and provide the required documents.
It should also be remembered that the movement of young players, who are not yet 18 years old, is subject to special restrictions. In fact, international transfers in these situations are only allowed in specific cases indicated by FIFA. The player’s parents have to move their place of residence along with the player and it is also possible to get a player if he has refugee status. However, these are exceptional situations and the rule is that youth players should not travel abroad.
South American players – summary
Foreign players in the new leagues must also bear in mind that usually the competent court to hear their cases will be the FIFA bodies, and only under certain conditions the courts of the national association. We wrote about foreign players before the Football Arbitration Tribunal of the Polish Football Association here. The biggest problem for South American players is taking care on time of formalities allowing for arrival to Europe. Then there is the issue of work permits. Another obstacle is the limitation of foreigners. This means that mainly only carefully selected players come to Europe. However, even teams from the lower leagues are interested in South American players, so there is no doubt that every quality player will find a suitable club in Europe.