London-born Yennaris gets landmark China call-up

Shanghai (AFP) –


Marcello Lippi made Chinese football history on Thursday by calling up London-born former England youth player Nico Yennaris to his international squad.

The former Arsenal reserve is the first naturalised Chinese to be selected for the country, part of moves by the government to drastically improve the team's fortunes.

World Cup-winner Lippi has returned as China coach -- having left in January -- and for his first game back, a friendly against the Philippines on June 7, looks set to give Yennaris his landmark debut.

China had until now resisted fielding players born in other countries, but Yennaris's mother is Chinese and the midfielder joined Beijing Guoan in January registered as a domestic player.

With his paperwork to become a Chinese citizen seemingly completed, the 26-year-old -- whose Chinese name is Li Ke -- is now poised to help China's bid to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.