Lorenzo Brown’s fast-tracked naturalisation as a Spanish citizen speaks volumes for the absurd things that sporting pressures can lead people to do. All because men’s basketball coach Sergio Scariolo was insistent that a particular position needed strengthening ahead of EuroBasket, we’ve been left with this embarrassment of a situation. Over the years, naturalising players so they can represent a country is something we’ve seen happen relatively frequently. The first instance of this in Spain, as far as I can remember, was when soccer player Laszlo Kubala was given citizenship back in the 50s. But there had always been some kind of link to the country: residence, ancestry… In Brown’s case, there’s just nothing. He’s a complete randomer, and Spain has cheapened itself by recruiting him.
It’s an outrage on so many levels, and I don’t think I’m slipping into demagoguery when I label it as such. Think of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who work here, mostly hailing from Latin American nations whose agreement with Spain allows them to seek citizenship only after spending two years in the country. They include prominent examples such as Vinícius Júnior - so Real Madrid can count themselves among those aggrieved by Brown’s speedy naturalisation. As can all the other possible occupants of his place in the Spain team; guys who, in the absence of stars whose clubs have refused to release them, have fought tooth and nail in qualifying games during those godforsaken international windows. Their reward is to be snubbed; that’s gratitude for you.
Brown isn’t Spanish and has never even thought about being Spanish. And it’s not like he arrived here on a raft dreaming of a better life; that would, of course, be deserving of our respect. He has barely set foot inside the country, save for the odd game he’s played here. He’ll swear his allegiance to the constitution in Atlanta, and will then join up with the squad to prepare for EuroBasket. His naturalisation is a Scariolo indulgence that Jorge Garbajosa, the president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, took to people in high places, then watched it fly through every step of the administrative process at warp speed, before being rubber-stamped by the Ministry of Justice. Spain have added a player to their ranks, but the unfairness to others and the inconsistency shown by the authorities is just painfully embarrassing.