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16 players doing Africa proud at the Euros.

By Henry Okoduwa

Africa is not left out of the ongoing Euro 2020 Championships. At least 16 players of African descent are actively involved in the action as hostilities enters phase two in the ongoing tournament.

The continent has a long history of playing a huge role in the development of the sport across Europe as players of African roots have continued to make profound impact in their successes.

Name them, the great Eusebio, Marcel Desailly, Zinedine Zidane, Jean Tigana, to mention but a few, are some of the stars that have etched their names in European football folklore.

At Euro 2020, the tradition has continued with at least 16 players of African blood strutting their stuff for various teams in the tournament.

Let’s take a look at some of them…

BREEL EMBOLO

Breel Embolo who now represents Switzerland was originally born in Yaounde, Cameroun on February 14, 1997 to Camerounian parents. But fate changed the course of his journey in life as his mother moved away from the African country to settle in France following her separation from Embolo’s father.

In France, she remarried, this time to a Swiss national who moved her and her young son to Basel.

It was in this city, Breel started to discover his unique talents in football. He started out playing for the city team, Basel in the Swiss League before moving on to Schalke 04.

He was so good that by the time he received his Swiss citizenship in 2014, he was already a material for the country’s national team.

Now playing for German Bundesliga team, Borussia Mochengladback, Embolo has previously represented Switzerland at both the Euro 2016 Championships and the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Embolo announced himself in the ongoing tournament when he scored the opening goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Wales in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 12.

GLEN KAMARA

Glen Adjei Kamara, 25, is originally of Sierra Leonian descent. He was born in Trampere, Finland on October 28, 1995 and currently plays for the Finland national team.

The Glasgow Rangers’ midfielder was in the Finnish squad that won and lost to both Denmark and Russia respectively in recent Euro 2020 Championships games.

BUKAYO SAKA

 

Bukayo Saka, born of Nigerian parents in London on September 5, 2001 is perhaps the fastest growing player to break into the Three Lions squad barely two full seasons of action in the Premier League.

The versatile Arsenal forward has impressed Gareth Southgate since breaking into the team in 2020 and has continued to keep faith with him.

The 19-year old who recently scored for the Three Lions in an international friendly against Austria is in the England squad for the Euros.

MANUEL AKANJI.

 

Manuel Obafemi Akanji is the Borussia Dortmund defender of Nigerian roots who also stars for the Swiss national team.

The 25-year old who was born in Wiesendangen to a Nigerian father — Abimbola Akanji — and a Swiss mother — Isabel Akanji — is representing Switzerland in the ongoing competition.

He has featured in the two matches his adopted country has drawn and lost to both Wales and Italy so far at Euro 2020.

ETHAN AMPADU

Ethan Kwame Ampadu, the Chelsea defender who was on loan to Sheffield United in the English Premier League last season is the Exerter-born star who currently represents Wales.

The 20-year old 6-footer is the product of a Ghanaian father and a Welsh mother.

Since his debut for Wales against France in an international friendly at the Stade de France in 2017, Ampadu hasn’t looked back.

He has played a prominent role in Wales’ two games in which they have drawn and won against Switzerland and Turkey so far at Euro 2020.

ROMELU LUKAKU

Romelu Menama Lukaku Bolingoli is the big, strong and reliable centre-forward who has terrorised defences across Europe since he turned a professional footballer in 2009.

Born to Congolese parents in Antwerp on May 13th, 1993, Lukaku is the ideal top nine on whose shoulders Inter Milan rode to the Italian Serie A title last season.

The 28-year old’s father, Roger Lukaku was also a footballer who was one of the stars of the Zairean (now Congo DR) national team in the days of yore.

Lukaku who has had stints at Anderlecht, Chelsea, West Brom, Everton and Manchester United today represents Belgium.

He is the country’s all-time scorer and has already scored two goals at Euro 2020.

KYLIAN MBAPPE

Kylian Mbappe Lottin was born in Paris on December 20, 1998 to a Camerounian father — Wilfried Mbappe and Algerian mother — Fayza Lamari, a former handball player.

The Paris St Germain forward who is one of the costliest players in the world has scored 69 goals in 72 appearances since joining the French team in 2018.

Since his debut for the French national team in 2016, he has already won the World Cup and countless number of individual and collective laurels for PSG. He is, however, yet to score for France in the ongoing tournament.

N’GOLO KANTE

N’golo Kante has in the space of six years worked himself to the level where he is being regarded as one of the world’s best midfielders. His work rate and amazing pace stands him apart from his contemporaries. For this, he is coaches and fans’ delight as he almost always delivers on any given day.

Originally from Mali, Kante chose to play for France, the country of his birth and has so far not regretted it.

His appearance at the Euro 2020 Championships is his second in four years after first debuting in the one hosted by France in 2016.

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He has already won the World Cup, as well as other domestic titles in the colours of Leicester City and Chelsea, the club he currently plays for.

Kante was in the French team that beat Germany in their opening Group F fixture at the ongoing tournament on Tuesday.

ADAMA TRAORE

Adama Traore Diarra is the stocky winger who stars for English Premier League team, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Born to Malian parents, Baba Traore (father) and Fatoumata Traore ( mother) in the city of Barcelona on January 25, 1996, Traore was close to switching his international allegiance to his native Mali before Spain recently capped him.

He is currently in the Spanish squad to the Euro 2020 Championships. He is yet to start a game under Luis Enrique but his breakthrough can happen anytime soon.

PRESNEL KIMPEMBE

Presnel Kimpembe, a defender who plays for PSG is featuring for the French team in the ongoing tournament.

Born to a Congolese father, Isaac Kimpembe and a Haitian mother on August 13, 1995 in a place called Beaumont-sur-Oise, France, Kimpembe has been a consistent face in the French national team since 2017.

He was in Didier Deschamp’s team that won the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.

He played in Tuesday’s win over Germany in Munich.

DAVID ALABA.

David Olatukunbo Alaba recently joined Spanish giants, Real Madrid in an ambitious move from Bayern Munich.

Born to a Nigerian father, George Alaba and a Filipino mother, Gina Alaba, David is probably Nigeria’s biggest foreign export to Austria.

Born on June 24, 1992, Alaba’s legendary versatility makes him a coach’s delight. He’d be leaving Bayern this summer with 27 trophies, among which are 10 Bundesliga titles and 2 UEFA Champions Leagues.

He has been a regular in the Austrian national team set-up since he debuted at age 17 in 2009. He was in the Austrian team that defeated North Macedonia last Sunday.

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PAUL POGBA

Paul Labile Pogba currently plays for Manchester United and is aged 28.

He is also a regular for France.

By virtue of his birth to Guinean parents, he was eligible to play for the African country at international level but chose France, the country where he was born on March 15, 1993

His father, Fassou Antoine Pogba and mother, Yep Moriba Pogba had left Conakry in the Eighties to settle in Lagny-sur-marne, Paris leaving behind their twin sons who would later reunite with their parents three years after Paul was born.

In the colours of France, Pogba has been oustanding, first winning the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the Russia 2018 World Cup.

He is currently campaigning with the team at the Euros.

LEROY SANE.

Leroy Aziz Sane who currently stars for German Bundesliga team, Bayern Munich is the son of Senegalese soccer legend, Souleyman Sane and German gymnastics heroine, Regina Weber.

Born in Essen, Germany on January 11, 1996, Leroy could have played for Senegal if he chose. But he opted to play for Germany instead.

The 25-year old who won 7 trophies with Manchester City between 2016 and 2020 is currently in Joachim Low’s squad campaigning for honours at Euro 2020.

OUSMANE DEMBELE

Ousmane Dembele who is one of football’s costliest players also stars for the French national team. The 24-year old who joined Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in a bank-breaking move in 2017 was originally born of a Mauritania father and Senegalese mother.

He could have easily played for either of these African countries but chose France, the place of his birth .

Today, he is a regular with the French team. He is, however, yet to kick a ball at the ongoing Championships.

STEVE MANDANDA

Steve Madanda Mpidi who stars for French club, Olympique Marseille has been in the French team for several years. He has always been in the shadows of the Les Blues’ number one goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris.

However, that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the benefits when the team wins in big tournaments. He had the chance to raise aloft the FIFA World Cup trophy after France won the title at Russia 2018.

Yet, he was originally of Congolese roots, born in Kinshasa on March 28, 1985.

JULES KOUNDE

Jules Olivier Kounde’s father is from Benin Republic while his mother is from France.

The defender, born on November 12, 1998 is a new face in Didier Deschamp’s team, having only debuted for France in a friendly against Wales on June 2, 2021.

He had come in for Benjamin Pavard in the second half of that game.

He is yet to kick a ball at Euro 2020, though.

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