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SAFC Obscure Nations XI

Remember that one player we had that one time? Remember where he was from? I’d be surprised if you did.

Ben Radford/Getty Images

Today I’m here to dedicate my needlessly wasted time and effort into constructing a Sunderland side comprising solely of players from the less likely places you’d expect to find footballers. The players chosen for this line-up are from countries that aren’t exactly renowned for their participation in the beautiful game.

Anyway, let’s crack on with this list. Bring on the nations’ scarce sportsmen!

Goalkeeper – Mart Poom (Estonia)

Who better to start this squad off with than the Poominator? Hailing from the cold reaches of eastern Europe, the Estionian born ‘keeper enjoyed a lengthy career spanning three decades, accumulating a total of 490 appearances for club and country collectively.

He nabbed a singular career goal somewhere along the line too, wonder who had the pleasure of witnessing that?

Full Back – Danny Higginbotham (Gibraltar)

Though originally from Manchester, Danny makes the cut here on a technicality.

A player that was never under any consideration for the England squad, Higginbotham bode his time well in waiting for national honours. Gibraltar’s approval by UEFA to compete in major tournaments saw Danny receive his first international call-up in the dying years of his career.

He’d go on to earn two more caps before his imminent retirement – immortalising himself in the history of Gibraltarian football I’m sure. Shame we never got to see him take on the mighty San Marino.

Centre Back – Paolo Da Silva (Paraguay)

South America is historically recognised for having some of most gifted and skilful footballers on the planet. On so many occasions throughFirouMot the existence of football, other continents’ attempts to produce footballing talent have paled in comparison to the efforts of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Paraguay, however, isn’t one that gets talked about as highly or as frequently – enter Paulo Da Silva.

Da Silva was signed by Steve Bruce in 2009, off the back of a commendable World Cup performance for his nation, but struggled to settle in and spent his two seasons here on the fringes of the first team.

We even brought in a second Paraguayan – Christian Riveros – to help him settle, but we don’t talk about him.

Centre Back – Tal Ben-Haim (Israel)

Arguably the most uninspiring signing from arguably the most uninspiring manager. Ricky Sbragia brought the Israeli to Sunderland as an extra layer of defensive cover, but we all know how well that went.

You never really hear much about the Israeli national team then or now, and I’d like to think Ben-Haim was part of the reason why.

Full Back – Justin Hoyte (Trinidad & Tobago)

Alright, I will concede that for a certain period of time not too long ago, the T&T national team was completely relevant. Back when they had Dwight Yorke, Kenwyne Jones, Carols Edwards and (top scorer!?) Stern John, they were a credible and well known side.

But as this is no longer the case, I felt it safe to sling a member of that carribean crew onto this list – and who better than the least prominent one of the bunch?

A member of the infamous 05/06 Sunderland side, Hoyte arrived on loan from Arsenal by Mick McCarthy, scored in that really shite derby game, and that’s just about it.

Left Midfield – Stephane Sessegnon (Benin)

Ah, yes, Stephane Sessegnon. While Sess was only prolific on very particular occasion for Sunderland, I can’t help but think he will have looked a lot more on form for his nation – which is relatively unsurprising seeing as Benin’s Elo ranking is 118th and they’ve only qualified for the African Cup of Nations Thrice. Benign Benin.

As a free agent now and capable of playing a variety of positions (sometimes will, sometimes anonymously) I’m sure a lot of clubs will have entertained a bosman move as an interesting option.

Centre Midfield – Cabral (Cape Verde-ish)

If you google Cabral, or play footy manager, all your sources will tell you that the midfielder is Swiss and that I’ve therefore got my facts wrong.

That’s not true. In fact, it’s not even true that his real name is Cabral. The man is a complete enigma.

Adilson Tavares Varela, as he is otherwise known, is originally from Cape Verde and used to turn out for the Swiss youth sides, unconsidered by the full national side. Some very odd accolades there.

It’s as if his time at Sunderland wasn’t obscure enough.

Centre Midfield – Didier N’Dong (Gabon)

Another one from a comparatively lacklustre African team – this time it’s a current player!

Didier N’Dong was signed just three days ago amid a deadline day scramble, none of us know quite what to expect from the lad just yet, but as a Premier League side we can’t really use the fact that he’s a first team regular with Gabon as an appropriate measurement of his ability.

Right Midfield – Adnan Januzaj (Belgium? Albania? Turkey? Serbia? Kosovo???)

There was no way I could even entertain the idea of omitting Januzaj from this list.

Despite representing Belgium as a full senior international, Adnan makes the cut due to the sheer number of different nations he could have chose instead. He could’ve turned out for a plethora of eastern European outfits, but the clincher here is that Kosovo was an option. Fantastic.

Striker – John Moore (Hong Kong)

Here’s my personal favourite.

John Moore… John Moore… what on earth is a John Moore?

Well, Moore is a Consett-born fella who began his professional career with Sunderland in 1984, but spent his time contracted to us out on loan before inevitably leaving in hope of a regular turnout elsewhere – he didn’t quite get that, and subsequently found himself having the stereotypical journeyman career.

But that’s beside the point. What’s important is that he was eligible to play for Hong Kong, and he took them up on that offer. Brilliant.

Striker – Benjani (Zimbabwe)

The last name on the team sheet is Benjani. Hands up if you forgot he played for us!

With a FIFA ranking of 110th for Zimbabwe, Benjani was always going to have better odds of making a name for himself in club football rather than the national equivalent. Whilst his eight appearances for us yielded next to nothing, he knocked them in for Portsmouth and Man City in far more memorable spells.

That concludes a starting XI of past and present Sunderland players from obscure footballing nations. I’m fairly certain I haven’t missed anything obvious – but if I have, feel free to let me know!

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