Steve Zakuani of the Seattle Sounders decided two days ago to accept a call up to the Congolese national team, ending speculation over whether or not he would wait for Bob Bradley or Fabio Capello to open up national team doors to him.
I've accepted an invite from the Congo nat'l team for a game in Paris next week.. tough decision but long wait for US citizenship nailed it!
Zakuani's decision may have some positive ramifications for the Congo, beyond the fact that the country now has an up-and-coming winger to start for its national team. Notable names currently on the Congolese national team roster are Hérita Ilunga (West Ham United), Shabani Nonda (Galatasaray) and Dieumerci Mbokani (AS Monaco). Also called up for Congo's friendly is Zakuani's older brother Gabriel Zakuani, a defender for Peterborough United of League One.
The impact of Zakuani's choice goes beyond the current squad, however. It affects a player that is close to home for Philadelphia Union fans.
Danny Mwanga may very well forgo waiting for US citizenship in order to join Zakuani as part of the Congo's national team squad. It may sound odd to hear but Congo currently provides Mwanga with the best ability to play national team level soccer.
Before this discussion moves onwards, it should be said that for personal reasons Mwanga may never consider the Congo as a national team choice. For those unaware, Mwanga's father was an advisor to former Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and was killed in the nation's civil war in 1997. Mwanga eventually came to the United States through refugee status in 2006 and attended Oregon State University.
What may influence a decision towards the Congo, instead of waiting for a United States call up, is the fact that Zakuani's citizenship process was not sped up by the US that pushed Zakuani into making the choice of Congo over the US and England.
Mwanga currently has a green card for the United States, which makes him a permanent citizen of the country but not eligible for the USMNT. Only fully fledged citizens of a country may be called up to a national team. Currently Mwanga needs another four years of residence inside of the United States to qualify for full citizenship (it's eight years and he has been in the country for four). That puts him in line with Union teammate Sebastian Le Toux for a 2014 call up.
Will Mwanga wait that long? He has stated in the past that he would like to play in Europe in coming years and has already shown that he can play against MLS talent and against European talent (the Manchester United friendly). Playing on a national team, and starting, would look good for the young Mwanga to draw more interest from Europe. It could also improve his game play as it would expose him to national team level talent as well (this isn't a knock on the MLS, it can be said about almost any league).
It seems that Zakuani may have already helped to decide the answer to that question, no matter if he doesn't know what Mwanga will choose in the end: