Fans frown upon athletes who change nationalities for better opportunities and financial security. They argue that representing your country is mainly a matter of pride and patriotism rather than making money. Athletes have a different perspective. As much as they’d love to play merely out of their love for the game, their families depend on them and hence have to make financial considerations. In this article, we list African footballers who changed citizenship.
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Adama Traore was also eligible to play for the Malian national team but eventually opted to play for the country of his birth, Spain. Traore’s talents came to the foe during his time with English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Anyone who has watched him knows he’s very important in stretching out teams and defences with his speed and footwork. His performances eventually caught the attention of former Spanish boss Luis Enrique.
In 2020, Luis eventually called him up, and Traore played for the Spanish senior team to end the hopes of the Malian federation.
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Benteke is another African footballer who changed citizenship and opted for a non-African nation. The player who has often fallen short of expectations, chose to play for Belgium.
He was born in Kinshasa, Congo, but his family moved to Belgium during the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko. He played for Belgium at youth level and made his senior appearance in 2010. Currently, he has 45 appearances for his adoptive country.
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He was born in Berlin, Germany, and came up through the ranks of the club football there but chose to represent Ghana. He’s one of the few footballers who looked past their European citizenship to represent an African country.
Kevin-Prince’s father is Ghanaian and says he chose Ghana over Europe because his character didn’t fit into the German culture. Additionally, he said he didn’t feel 100% German or fully Ghanaian but chose the African country.
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Marcel Desailley didn’t mince his words when he said he felt fully French. This explains his decision to play for France and not Ghana. His family moved to France when he was four years old, and he went on to represent them in international football.
Even before he became a star, the Malian Football Federation had its eye on Ngolo Kante. At the time, he played for French club Caen. Reports indicate that the midfielder was keen on representing Mali.
However, his former boss convinced him to choose France because he could play in the biggest competitions.
Mali made several attempts to get Kante to represent the country, but he said he wasn’t ready to play international football. However, he joined the list of African footballers who changed citizenship when France came calling. Kante was part of the French team that won the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
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Former French player Patrice Evra is among African footballers who changed citizenship. He chose to play for France even though he was born in Dakar, Senegal. Evra moved to Europe with his parents when he was a year old.
He began his footballing career in Italy, then moved to France, where he solidified his career. He eventually picked up French citizenship and played for the junior French side. From 2004, the defender played for the French national football team until 2016.
Wilfred Zaha completes our list of African footballers who changed citizenship. Popularly referred to as Wilf, he’d been waiting for an England call-up, but it wasn’t forthcoming.
Despite making two appearances in friendly matches, the Ivorian decided to turn to his country of birth for international football. Zaha played for English at junior level and has now made 17 appearances for the Ivory Coast National team.
Some African football fans find it hard to understand why some footballers born on the continent or with African heritage would pick non-African nations. However, there are a lot of considerations to be made, and each of them has good reasons for doing it.
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