The inside story of how USMNT star Musah might have performed for England

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AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Yunus Musah will probably be a centerpiece for the US males’s nationwide workforce when it faces England in a essential World Cup group stage match on Friday, however he was shut — very, very shut — to enjoying for the opposite facet.

In reality, if not for a quirk of scheduling due to the COVID-19 pandemic two years in the past, Musah — who spent his teenage years rising up in London and representing England’s youth nationwide groups — would possible be that includes for the Three Lions as a substitute.

“We talked about it so much because there were a lot of feelings,” Musah’s older brother, Abdul, instructed ESPN. “Looking back, the situation was so unusual. But I remember picking up Yunus at the airport after he came back from his first time with the US and I said, ‘How was it?’ and he looked at me and he said, ‘I’m not going anywhere else.'”

That conclusion appears easy sufficient, however attending to it was truly fairly tough. Musah’s preliminary time with the US got here in November 2020 — a match window that may usually have staged World Cup qualifiers, however solely consisted of friendlies due to world journey chaos amid the pandemic. This turned out to be a key improvement for Musah as a result of by rule, a participant with eligibility for a number of nations turns into dedicated to a rustic as soon as they play in a senior-level official recreation for that nation. Friendlies do not depend.

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So, if there had been the usually scheduled qualifiers as a substitute of exhibitions, Musah, who was born in New York Metropolis to Ghanaian dad and mom (his mom was on trip on the time) and was raised in Italy and England, possible would have turned down the US invitation to camp. “I don’t think he would have gone if he knew that going would have made the decision,” Abdul stated, including that he and Musah had been “very honest” with the England federation officers about Musah’s intentions.

“We spoke about it at home. We had to be so grateful to them,” Abdul stated, referencing his brother having performed extra 30 matches for England on the youth degree. “But ultimately the decision comes down to: Can you chose them for what they have done?”

“Obviously they tried to convince us to stay. Some may argue that they could have done more. But Yunus wanted to try it.”

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Musah’s connection to the opposite younger rising stars on the US workforce was fast. Clearly enjoying time and a extra central place inside a workforce are at all times components for a dual-national, however regardless of the household’s connection to London, Abdul stated he might sense his brother’s ardour concerning the US instantly after these first exhibitions towards Wales and Panama.

The US initially made contact with Musah by means of Nico Estevez, an assistant for the US who had connections at Musah’s membership, Spanish LaLiga facet Valencia. Musah’s conversations with US coach Gregg Berhalter had been definitely optimistic, but it surely was the ambiance he felt among the many gamers in camp that basically intrigued him.

“It was as if we’ve seen each other or met each other before,” Musah instructed ESPN after finalizing his choice. “And that that helps me because I’m new, and they welcomed me really well. In the end, we played two games really well and also had fun.”

Though he is much less well-known amongst informal US followers than Christian Pulisic, for instance, Musah — who will flip 20 on Nov. 29, the day the US faces Iran in its final group stage match — has been the decide of many observers to be the subsequent American breakout famous person. His presence in midfield and his potential to maneuver the ball ahead into harmful positions can change a recreation, whereas his persona — he unofficially has the widest smile on the US workforce — is relentlessly upbeat.

Abdul says his brother has at all times been that means, including that their whole household was raised to be humble and grateful for that which they’ve. In reality, when Musah was contemplating which English academy workforce to affix, he was on the verge of signing with Chelsea however joined Arsenal on the final minute as a result of it was nearer to his home in East London, and the old-style clubhouse reminded him of the extra ramshackle workforce he had performed for as a boy in Italy. “The moment you entered, it felt like home,” Abdul stated.

With Ghanaian, English, Italian and American sensibilities, Musah’s whole life appears like a singular combination. The solely Muslim on the US workforce, he is been very conscious of the variations that include being in Qatar — the decision to prayer can typically be heard throughout US coaching — however the reality is that his every day routine has at all times been an amalgam of cultures.

At residence in Spain, Musah and Abdul, who lives with him, dip out and in of a number of languages, typically defaulting to Italian however then switching to English in the event that they’re speaking about, say, the Premier League. They love Ghanaian meals, like jollof rice, but additionally are nonetheless very choosy about having their pasta ready within the northern Italian model since that’s the place they lived till Musah was 9. Their humor might skew extra British, Abdul stated, whereas Musah’s musical and leisure tastes hedge American. If he will get a chilly, they fall again on Ghanaian natural cures.

It’s a tapestry. And for Musah, the consolation he feels to be all of these issues isn’t at problem when he is along with his American teammates. He can categorical himself, each as an individual and a participant. And that potential evokes a happiness in him that makes his whole household grateful.

“From that first time, he felt as if he belonged,” Abdul stated. “England was amazing for him. But he feels so proud to be representing the USA. It’s where he wants to be.”

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