World Cup stars with African roots

By - Jan 1st 1970

In football, representing your national team at an international game and scoring is always a feat any player would kill for but nothing beats the feeling of winning a major tournament, especially the FIFA World Cup.

On Monday, Timothy Weah became the first player to score for the United States in the ongoing 2022 World Cup in Qatar when he scored against Wales in the 36th minute in a match that ended 1-1.

Since before the goal, Tim had already surpassed his father, George Weah, (current President of Liberia) who won the Ballon d'Or in 1995, but playing for his homeland, Liberia, he never reached a World Cup.

Weah’s exploits for USA open a thick book of legendary historical achievements of players with African roots that have not only represented and scored for foreign nations but also won the top prize; the FIFA World Cup trophy.

Quarterfinals hurdle

Until today, no African teams have ever gone past the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Heading into this year’s global show, only Ghana has braced the odds to acquit themselves impressively at past FIFA men’s World Cup.

Ironically, this feat happened when Africa hosted the prestigious football tournament.

South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup for the first time in Africa, but the Black Stars of Ghana would get to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

Ghana's Black Stars lit up the 2010 World Cup.

However, few players with African roots have managed to win the coveted prize.

Two-time World Cup champions France leads with the highest number of players with African roots.

African roots

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.

When France won their second World Cup title in 2018, a total of 15 players in the squad have African roots.

Not even the hottest talent in the World today is pure French. Kylian Mbappé might have been born in France but he has African roots as his father is Cameroonian and mother an Algerian.

France and PSG star Kylian Mbappé.

The Russia victors team also had Paul Pogba who was born in France to Guinean parents, Thomas Lemar born in France and is of Nigerian descent, Corentin Tolisso born in France with a father of Togolese descent and N'Golo Kanté born in France to Malien parents

Others are Blaise Matuidi born in France to an Angolan father and a Congolese mother, Steven Nzonzi born in France to parents of DR Congo descent, Ousmane Dembélé born in France to a Nigerian father and a Mauritanian mother and Adil Rami born in France to Moroccan parents.

Previously, five World Cup winners were born in Africa: Claudio Gentile (Libya), Marcel Desailly (Ghana), Patrick Vieira (Senegal), Steve Mandanda (Congo DR), and Samuel Umtiti (Cameroon). So, too, were two Golden Boot winners in Just Fontaine (French Morocco, now part of Morocco) and Eusebio (Mozambique).

Other notable World Cup players who were born on the continent include Mario Coluna (Mozambique), Jean Tigana (French Sudan, now part of Mali), Mbo Mpenza (Zaire, now Congo DR), Claude Makelele (Zaire, now Congo DR), Emmanuel Olisadebe (Nigeria), Abel Xavier (Mozambique), Patrice Evra (Senegal), Gelson Fernandes (Cabo Verde), Danilo (Guinea-Bissau) and Breel Embolo (Cameroon).

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