Male', MALDIVES - Brazil-born Guangzhou Evergrande striker Elkeson to lead China against the Maldives in their opening fixture of 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday here in Male', Maldives.
Elkeson made his debut for China on Thursday in their final warm-up match against Guangzhou Evergrande reserve team before heading to Maldives on Sunday. China won the friendly by 7-0 even though Elkeson failed to put his name on the scoresheet in his debut.
The 30-year-old will become the first football player without any Chinese ancestry to play for Team China on the international stage.
This is the sixth season that Elkeson spent in the top Chinese Football league. In 2013, the footballer joined Guangzhou Evergrande and won three consecutive Chinese league champions. Elkeson later joined another competitive Chinese football club Shanghai SIPG, and helped the team break Guangzhou Evergrande’s eight-year-long streak in dominating the championship title in the Chinese Super League.
Throughout his six-season-long professional football career in China, Elkeson scored a total of 98 goals as of August 19, making him one of the best scorers in the league. Elkeson was a two-time leading scorer in the Chinese league in 2013 and 2014.
His new international teammate, Nico Yennaris, became China’s first naturalised footballer in June, but the former Arsenal youth teamer is eligible to naturalise as a Chinese citizen because of his Chinese mother.
China does not recognize dual nationality, so any player wishing to be eligible to represent the country under FIFA rules, either through residence or ancestry, also has to give up their previous passport.