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20th Dec 2016

Celtic wonderkid plays for England a month after playing for Scotland

And the reaction was inevitable...

Robert Redmond

Karamoko Dembele is keeping his options open, and why not?

The Celtic youngster came to the attention of football fans when he made an appearance for the club’s under-20 side in October. He’s 13-years old.

Dembele, who is no relation to Celtic striker Moussa Dembele, or Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembele or Borussia Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele, or any of the footballing Dembeles, is so highly rated at Celtic Park that he’s even taken part in training sessions with the first-team.

And it’s easy to see why.

Dembele looks like a supremely gifted young footballer.

A brilliant dribbler, with a low centre of gravity and a wonderful left foot, he constantly drops into pockets of space, spins away from opponents with ease and looks like the best player on the pitch.

However, he’s only a kid and there’s no guarantee he’ll make it as a professional, never mind turn into a world class player.

The best player at 13 isn’t necessary the best player at 15 or 18 or 23, so expectations need to be tapered a little as he doesn’t need any extra pressure placed on him as he continues his development.

Instead, Dembele is at the centre of an international tug-of-war between Scotland and England for his services.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 30: Karamoko Dembele of Scotland is seen prior to the Scotland v Northern Ireland match during the U16 Victory Shield Tournament at The Oriam at Heriot Watt University on October 30, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The youngster made his debut for Scotland’s U-16 side against Wales in November, but is still eligible to play for England, the country of his birth, and has exercised that right

Dembele played for England U-15s in their 5-3 win over Turkey at St George’s Park, and took to his Instagram page to mark the occasion.

However, while most wished him well, some social media users responded to him playing for England after lining out for Scotland with the snake emoji.

The symbol is used by football fans when they believe a footballer has betrayed their club and/or national team.


Dembele’s parents are from the Ivory Coast and he was born in London in 2003. He moved to Glasgow when he was 5-years-old and joined Celtic when he was 10.

He has plenty of time before he has to decide on which country he wants to play for, and playing with England as well as Scotland can arguably only help his development.

Nationality is also a bit of an abstract concept and means different things to different people. It’s not an issue 13-year-olds tend to spend too much time thinking about.

Dembele just wants to play football, and he should be allowed to. When the time comes, he’ll make a choice and good luck to him.