It is a mystery why one of England's best players doesn't want to represent his country

Tue, Mar 26, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

It is a mystery why one of England's best players doesn't want to represent his country

It is still a mystery why one of England's best players walked out on the team midway through the last World Cup and hasn't represented his country ever since.

Ben White has never publicly said why.

Meanwhile, he's continued to excel in Arsenal's defense and, as one of the Premier League's top players, remains on the radar of England manager Gareth Southgate.

Yet last week, Southgate said White was still making himself unavailable for England, and was seemingly ruling himself out of the European Championship in Germany.

"For me, that is a great shame," Southgate said. "He is a player we took to the Euros, a player we took to the World Cup, and I spoke to him post-Qatar because I wanted to pick him.

"I want that door wide open. He would be in this squad, but he's not available to us and I have to focus on who can help us."

White left the 2022 World Cup early for what the English Football Association said were "personal reasons."

Those reasons have still not been explained and Southgate has dismissed reports there was a problem between White and England assistant Steve Holland.

White's World Cup exit was sudden, coming shortly before England's first game of the knockout stages. At the time, the FA asked that "the player's privacy is respected" without offering further detail.

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The 26-year-old White has previously spoken of his unusual attitude to soccer, revealing that he rarely watches matches.

"I just loved the game, I was always playing it, never watching it," he told Sky Sports in 2021.

It hasn't done him any harm.

He joined Arsenal from Brighton for 50 million pounds ($69.5 million) in 2021 and has been part of the London's club's resurgence over the past two years. The Gunners lead the Premier League and are in the Champions League quarterfinals.

No wonder Southgate wants him in his squad ahead of the Euros with England considered one of the title favorites.

There's no doubt White would bolster England's chances, so his reluctance to be involved puzzles everyone. Especially, when he said he "cried for about an hour" when he received his first international call-up in 2021.

Southgate hasn't been able to persuade him back but one of his Arsenal teammates is going to give it a try. New England captain Declan Rice.

"The only thing that matters is what he thinks, and at this moment in time he obviously doesn't want to play for England," Rice told talkSport radio. "I really hope he does (change his mind), because I see him every day, he is such a good character. For people that don't know, such a good character, very composed, very level-headed.

"When he's on a football pitch, he will do anything to win but also I think for England as well, he can play as a centre back and at right back, as in inverted full-back. Now he's a really key tool that we could have. So I hope he changes his mind."

White is not the first player to opt against representing England.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes retired from international soccer at the age of 29 and later explained he "wasn't enjoying it."

Blackburn striker Chris Sutton refused to play for England B and never represented his country again. He has since said he regrets the decision.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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