FIFA World Cup Semifinals: The African Connection | Kwesé

FIFA World Cup Semifinals: The African Connection

FIFA World Cup Semifinals: The African Connection

11:45 SAST | 10 Jul 2018

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It was not a very good FIFA World Cup for Africa, with all five teams dumped out of the tournament in the first round. This was the first year since 1982 that there have been no African teams in the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

But at least African viewers can look out for a bunch of players in the semifinals who have a strong ancestral connection to this continent. Belgium and France, in particular, are loaded with the sons of African immigrants.

FIFA World Cup: France vs Belgium (KFS and Kwesé FIFA Channel, 10 July at 19:45 CAT)  

Belgium is a country of only 11 million souls, sandwiched between Germany, France and the Netherlands. It’s famous for waffles, chocolate and for being home to the European Parliament. But Belgium’s political situation is also rather fractious at times, with conflict between the Flemish community, who make up 60% of the population, and the French-speaking community who constitute the balance.

Belgium also has a history of brutal colonial plunder in Africa. Fortunately, that story has a positive ending. Now the sons of African immigrants have brought pride to the country through football. It began in the early 2000s when the country embarked on a grass-roots programme to develop football skills among the youth. It was also an opportunity to integrate the children of immigrants into Belgian society.

The up-shot has been a diverse national team that entered the tournament as the world’s number three ranked team, and lived up to that billing by beating Brazil in the quarterfinals. Key players include Romelu Lukaku, the son of Congolese immigrants, Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini, sons of Moroccan immigrants, and Vincent Kompany, the son of a Congolese diplomat.

France also have strong African representation; 15 of their 23-man squad have a connection to Africa. Kylian Mbappe’s father is Cameroonian and his mother is Algerian. Samuel Umtiti was born in Cameroon. Paul Pogba’s parent are from Guinea (Conakry). Benjamin Mendy is of Sengalese descent, Thomas Lemar’s grandfather played for the Super Eagles (Nigeria), while Blaise Matuidi’s father is Angolan and his mother is Congolese.

Steven Nzonzi and Ousmane Dembélé also have sub-Saharan African roots, as does N'Golo Kanté, whose parents are Malian.

Clearly, sport is a way for recent immigrants to prove themselves in their adopted country and live the dream that so many who immigrate aspire to. Almost half England’s squad is made up of the sons of immigrants, including Dele Alli, whose father is Nigerian.

FIFA World Cup Semifinals: England vs Croatia (Kwesé Free Sports & Kwesé FIFA World Cup, 11 July at 19:45 CAT)

Whatever the outcome of the tournament it will at least be a victory for immigration and diversity. The hard-working and talented sons of immigrants have brought glory to their nations, proving that it’s possible for diverse peoples to integrate and flourish, particularly when rallying behind a common cause.  

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