Ex-Arsenal youngster Nico Yennaris discusses new name after China switch

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Former Arsenal and Brentford man Nico Yennaris has changed his name to Li Ke after becoming the first naturalised player to represent China.

The 27-year-old made the switch to Beijing Guoan and gave up his British passport.

China prohibits dual nationality and the midfielder now has five caps for his adopted nation.

“To be honest, I’m not sure what the name means. I was given it when I moved here," he told The Sun.

“I didn’t actually know my name had officially changed until I arrived. It was a bit of a surprise but I’m happy and proud to have a Chinese name.

Nico Yennaris is now known as Li Ke
(Image: VCG via Getty Images)

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“Everyone says it’s a decent name. Li is quite a common name in China. I’m used to people calling me it now.

“Some people still call me Nico. Some call me Li Ke but it’s more fans who will call me by my Chinese name.”

Li was eligible to play for China by virtue of his mother, who was born there.

For most switching allegiances would be a difficult call, but not for the former Brentford man.

He made his debut in a 2-0 win over the Philippines last year and now enjoys celebrity status.

The midfielder was on Arsenal's books before moving to Brentford
(Image: Paul Burgman)

Li continued: “I was probably the most relaxed and most calm about it out of everyone. I think people around me were nervous because it hadn’t been done before.

“But my thinking was football-based: I was progressing and if that’s what it takes to play international football, let’s go with it.

“I just made my decision there and then. I didn’t really dwell on it. I wanted to play for China.”

The midfielder has enjoyed the fanfare and now has a fan club containing several thousand members who chat online.

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