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France’s deep African roots

  • Published at 07:16 pm July 9th, 2018
  • Last updated at 07:25 pm July 9th, 2018
France football team Reuters

No African side have reached the second round of the global showpiece since 1982. But France should provide a top choice for fans from Africa to get behind for the remainder of the tournament as they have 15 players in their 23-man squad which have some connection to the continent.

Back in 2011 a race row erupted in France when former World Cup winner Laurent Blanc was coach of the side and it was mooted that the number of young footballers with dual nationalities should be capped in the country’s academies, reports timeslive.co.za.

This was in part because France did not want to spend money developing players which would go on to choose to represent Algeria‚ Morocco‚ Tunisia and so on‚ which is perhaps a fair point‚ but also‚ with more sinister tones‚ it was suggested it be done to preserve "our culture‚ our history".

This was in the fallout of the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when it was perceived that the players had little interest in fighting for France‚ but rather looking after their own reputation.

It was a plan that was never followed through after a public outcry and the France side of today is a multi-cultural mix of backgrounds‚ though with the majority of players born in France.

This is‚ of course‚ nothing new.

Down the years some of the greatest French players could also have played for African national teams through their heritage‚ such as the legendary Zinedine Zidane‚ Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema (all Algeria)‚ Patrick Vieira (Senegal/Cape Verde)‚ Marcel Desailly (Ghana)‚ Patrice Evra (Senegal/Guinea/Cape Verde)‚ Claude Makelele (DR Congo) and Just Fontaine (Morocco).

In fact‚ in the current French squad‚ only two players‚ Benjamin Pavard and Florian Thauvin‚ can lay claim to having ancestral strong ties to France going back generations‚ with even the likes of Antoine Griezmann (Germany)‚ Raphaël Varane (Martiniquais) and Olivier Giroud (Italy) having connections from outside of the country.

1. Steve Mandanda (goalkeeper): Born in Kinshasa‚ DR Congo and moved to France as a teenager. Plays for Marseille.

2. Presnel Kimpembe (defender): Born in France to a Congolese father and a Haitian mother. Plays for Paris St Germain.

3. Samuel Umtiti (defender): Born in Yaoundé‚ Cameroon but moved to France at the age of two. Plays for Barcelona.

4. Adil Rami (defender): Born in France to Moroccan parents. Plays for Marseille.

5. Djibril Sidibé (defender): Born in France to parents of Malian descent. Plays for Monaco.

6. Benjamin Mendy (defender): Born in France to parents of Senegalese descent. Plays for Manchester City.

7. Paul Pogba (midfielder): Born in France to Guinean parents. Plays for Manchester United.

8. Thomas Lemar (midfielder): Born in France and is of Nigerian/Guadeloupe descent. His grandfather played for the Super Eagles. Plays for Monaco.

9. Corentin Tolisso (midfielder): Born in France with a father of Togolese descent. Plays for Bayern Munich.

10. N'Golo Kanté (midfielder): Born in France to Malian parents. Plays for Chelsea.

11. Blaise Matuidi (midfielder): Born in France to an Angolan father and a Congolese mother. Plays for Juventus.

12. Steven Nzonzi (midfielder): Born in France to parents of DR Congo descent. Plays for Sevilla.

13. Kylian Mbappé (striker): Born in France to a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother. Plays for PSG‚ on loan from Monaco.

14. Ousmane Dembélé (striker): Born in France to a Nigerian/Malian father and a Mauritanian/Senegalese mother. Plays for Barcelona.

15. Nabil Fekir (striker): Born in France to parents of Algerian descent. Plays for Lyon.

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