Dinamo star fuels Austrian hopes

Austrian football officials are carefully examining the career of an Austrian-born teen in the Croatian top-flight league.Mateo Kovacic, who was born in the Upper Austrian city of Linz, is regarded as one of the biggest promises of Croatian football. The talented midfielder became the youngest player ever to score in the country’s HNL league on Saturday.The 16-year-old Dinamo Zagreb and Croatian Under-17s national team star scored in his team’s 6-0 win over Hrvatski Dragovoljac.Kovacic has sparked interest from Europe’s biggest teams, according to the Croatian Times. The online newspaper reports today (Tues) that his Graz-based father wants his son to stay with the title holders for some more years instead of joining a club abroad.Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB) are reportedly planning to approach the teenager about playing for Austria. Regulations of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) have it that a player can play for another country’s colours as long as he does not perform for the senior national team.Ivica Vastic is the most famous example of a footballer born abroad who decided to play for Austria. The Croatian-born midfielder was capped 50 times for the Austrian national team after accepting Austrian citizenship in 1996.Vastic was part of the Austrian 23-member squad for the 1998 World Cup. He also became the oldest player ever to score a goal in a European Championship when he scored for Austria against Poland from the penalty spot in their 1-1 draw in the Euro2008 aged 39.Vastic retired from professional football last year after having played for Sturm Graz and LASK Linz among other clubs. He currently manages the amateur team of Austrian Bundesliga side Austria Vienna.Rapid Vienna’s Yasin Pehlivan and Veli Kavlak and Eintracht Frankfurt ace Ümit Korkmaz also opted for Austria instead of the country their families originated from. All three players were born in Vienna, while Vastic was born in the Croatian city of Split.Austrian national team manager Dietmar Constantini chose David Alaba to play in an away match against France which Austria lost 1-3. This decision made the up and coming midfielder Austria’s youngest national team player of all time at age 17.The German Football Association (DFB) reportedly planned to approach the Bayern Munich star over the possibility of playing for the country he moved to in 2009.Christian Lell revealed recently he could imagine playing for the home country of his mother. The German, who joined Hertha BSC Berlin from Bayern Munich earlier this year, explained that he has both a German and an Austrian passport.Constantini said he could imagine calling up the defender if regulations would allow such a move. Officials, however, found out that FIFA rules prohibit Lell playing for Austria since he only held the German citizenship when he performed for Germany’s Under-20s and Under-21s national teams in 2003 and 2004.A poll showed that more than eight of 10 Austrian football fans would have appreciated seeing the right-back sporting Austria’s red and white colours.