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Top 10 'hired' British sportsmen

Alex Perry
October 11, 2013
Safe to say that Pietersen is the wicket all South Africans want to get... © PA Photos

Jack Wilshere's comments regarding "foreigners" playing for England were much debated throughout the week. So it got us thinking about those other "British" sports stars who were born nowhere near our green and graceful land.

England's South African-born cricket uber-hero Kevin Pietersen took particular offence to Wilshere's ramblings, even challenging the Arsenal midfielder on Twitter, but where will he feature in our list?

10. Luol Deng

Born in Sudan in 1985, Deng's family was granted political asylum and emigrated to London, where Deng became a British citizen.

Having chosen basketball over football, Deng led England, aged 14, at the European Junior National Tournament, averaging 36 points and earning the MVP award.

He was handed a basketball scholarship at Duke University, Pennsylvania, and was then snapped up by the Chicago Bulls - where he has played since 2004.

Deng has represented Great Britain at European level and at the 2012 Olympic Games, but the team had a rather forgettable record of one win and four defeats.

9. Owen Hargreaves

Born in Canada to an English father and Welsh mother, Hargreaves was not short of options when it came to choosing who he represented at international level. And having spent 10 years at Bayern Munich, there were rumblings that Die Mannschaft were keen for him to take up residency.

But Hargreaves always insisted he "felt English", and went on to become the first player to be capped by England having not previously lived in the country.

It took a while for England fans to warm to Hargreaves - but that soon changed when he single-handedly carried Sven Goran Eriksson's men through the 2006 World Cup quarter-final against Portugal, which they eventually lost on penalties following a 0-0 draw in which Wayne Rooney had been sent off.

8. Greg Rusedski

We're friends... honest! © Getty Images

In 1993, the big-serving left-hander became the first Canadian to reach the world top 50 in two decades. He then decided he wanted to represent Great Britain, the birthplace of - you guessed it - his dear mother.

It launched a bitter-sweet battle with Britain's only other tennis hope, Tim Henman. The pair became close friends, despite being forced to compete for the affections of the fans.

While Henman won the battle for column inches, Rusedski was more successful on the court, winning 15 titles to Henman's 11. He also became Britain's first grand slam finalist since Fred Perry in 1936 when he lost to Pat Rafter at the 1997 US Open.

He was also the subject behind the origin of the "hilarious" British-when-he-wins, Canadian-when-he-loses gag now reserved for Andy Murray.

7. John Barnes

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and named after Welsh legend John Charles by his football-fanatic father, Barnes and his family moved to London when he was 12.

Barnes holds the surely unique title of having played for his country of residence and then going on to manage his country of birth. Barnes won 79 caps for England, scoring 11 times - including the time he took Brazil on at their own game at the Maracana:

He then went on to take charge of Jamaica, who he guided to first place in the 2008 Caribbean Championships and qualifying as the top Caribbean side for the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He was in charge of his birth nation's football team for 11 games, winning seven and drawing four.

6. Mike Catt

Another of England's South African-born sporting heroes, Catt chose to play for England, for whom he qualified thanks to his English mother, because his birth nation was banned from international competition due to its apartheid policy.

Catt was part of the squad that won the World Cup in 2003 and even had the honour of kicking the ball into touch for the final whistle which saw England become champions for the first time.

Catt wasn't the only player born away from these shores in that heroic squad, with Kyran Bracken (Ireland), Stuart Abbott (South Africa) and Simon Shaw (Kenya) also involved.

Samoan-born Manu Tuilagi and New Zealander Dylan Hartley are among the current crop of England players.

5. Justin Rose

England's Rose © Getty Images

Born in Johannasburg, South Africa, in 1980, Rose moved to England at the age of five where he took up the game in Hampshire - so it seems only fair he should represent the Queen while tearing up fairways across the globe.

Rose was part of the stunning Ryder Cup comeback at Medinah last year (a competition he wouldn't be able to compete in as a South African) before going on to lift the US Open in June to become the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo in 1996.

Which is a far more impressive feat than the first South African-born golfer to win a major since Ernie Els in 2012…

4. Chris Froome

It is relatively common knowledge that Froomey was born in Kenya and raised in South Africa, and once he turned professional he represented his birth nation racing for a team from his adopted nation.

Like Rusedski, Froome was very successful before his switch of allegiance. And like Hargreaves, his reasoning was he "had always felt British".

He went on to become the second ever Briton to win the Tour de France, just 12 months after the first - this man:

3. Bradley Wiggins

Do not adjust your set. It's true. We carried out a quick poll around the ESPN offices and it's fair to say it isn't hugely common knowledge outside the cycling fraternities that Wiggo was born abroad.

Everything about Bradley Wiggins is so quintessentially British. But, alas, our hero on two wheels was born in Ghent, Belgium, to an Australian father who was based in the Flemish outback.

Shortly after making history at the Tour, Wiggins won gold in the Time Trial at the London Games.

2. Kevin Pietersen

KP moved to England at the age of 17 after being dropped by his South African first-class side Natal - which he felt was due to the country's racial quota system, in which provincial sides were required to have at least four non-white players.

His English mother made him eligible to play for England and, after serving a qualifying period of four years playing at county level with Nottinghamshire, he was called up immediately into the national side - where he has become a mainstay with an enviable honours list and records galore.

Pietersen is by no means the only foreign-born England cricket hero in recent years. Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior were also born in South Africa, while 2005 Ashes wicketkeeper Geraint Jones was born in Papua New Guinea to Welsh parents and brought up in Australia. (Are you keeping up?) Jones now plays for his birth nation.

1. Mo Farah

The Mobot © PA Photos

This list just wouldn't be complete without Our Mo.

Born and raised in war-torn Somalia, Farah's family was granted political asylum when he was 12 and they joined his father in west London.

But his twin brother had to be left behind in Africa due to illness while his beloved grandmother headed for Holland. Adapting to life in England was tricky for Farah, and he took to athletics.

He went on to become arguably Britain's greatest ever long-distance runner and, at the time of writing, has 12 gold medals - including two from London 2012 - and seven silver.

It's hard to think back to that Saturday night in the Olympic Stadium without it sending a tingle down your spine.

And if you're wondering where his now iconic "Mobot" celebration came from...

Alex Perry is assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk and he tweets here.

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