FIFA World Cup: Representing the Land of you Ancestors, or the Land of Your Birth | Kwesé

FIFA World Cup: Representing the Land of you Ancestors, or the Land of Your Birth

FIFA World Cup: Representing the Land of you Ancestors, or the Land of Your Birth

16:45 SAST | 29 Mar 2018

Kwesé is your official FIFA World Cup broadcaster

With the FIFA World Cup coming up 14 June, the contested question of nationality raises its head. Do you play for the land of your ancestors, or the land of your birth? Most fans are happy for their star players to seek fame and fortune with the big European clubs. But things get more complicated when those players choose to represent a European country instead of an African one.

Should some of the top Belgian or French players be representing their country of origin, as opposed to their adopted nation? That’s a complex matter. These days nationhood is most certainly not defined by race, or even heritage. Many people of African parentage born in Europe naturally become loyal to the country of their birth and upbringing. 

Belgium vs Panama (Kwesé FIFA World Cup Channel, 18 June at 17:00 CAT)
Romelu Lukaku’s parents immigrated to Belgium from the Congo (then Zaire). His father, Roger Lukaku, played for Zaire in the 1994 and 1996 African Cup of Nations, as well as in the qualifying rounds of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Romelu speaks some Swahili and when growing up his hero was Didier Drogba. So, he hasn’t lost his African roots, but there was no question of him representing the DRC in international football.

Likewise Vincent Kompany, who captains Belgium and Manchester City and who graduated from the Manchester Business School with an MBA. His father, Pierre, immigrated to Belgium from the Congo. Kompany is FIFA ambassador for SOS Children - representing the Congo - a charity that helps children living in poverty. But there is no chance of him suddenly shifting allegiances and playing for Congo Brazzaville. As for Mousa Dembélé, his father is Malian. And he too was born and bred in Belgium and is loyal to that country.

As for the French players of African descent: both Paul Pogba’s parents are from the small west African nation, Guinea. But Pogba himself was born and raised in France. One of France’s other major stars, Kylian Mbappé, was also born in France to African parentage. His father is Cameroonian and his mother Algerian. Like Pogba, there was never any question as to which national team he’d represent.

France vs Australia (Kwesé FIFA World Cup Channel, 16 June at 12:00 CAT)
What about N'Golo Kanté? The diminutive midfielder powered Leicester City to a miracle Premier League title in 2016 and then promptly did the same for Chelsea the following year. It’s hard to over-estimate Kanté’s value to club or country. To think that in the 2015/16 season, for Leicester, he produced 37 more tackles and 15 more interceptions than any other player in the Premier League, which prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to call him, “by far the best player in the league.” And yet because he’s small and plays unselfishly, he is often under-estimated. We know Kanté is unselfish on the park, but is he unselfish in choosing to play for France? He was born in Paris in 1991 to Malian parents. Mali asked him to represent them in the 2015 African Cup of Nations and issued a further invitation in 2016. But, he’ll be representing France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

With France Kanté has a real chance of winning the trophy, something that would have been unlikely had he chosen Mali. Someone who exudes such spirit and love of the game, and who seems unspoilt by the distractions of fame and fortune, deserves all the glory he gets. Malians, and indeed all Africans, of goodwill should be delighted that those from the diaspora are succeeding in Europe and bringing honour to the land of their ancestors.

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