Euro 2020: A European Championship of Africans

Football, like every other sport, unites the world. It has a wide reach and a global audience that is yet unseen of any game. People travel over seas and oceans to achieve their dreams of getting good shots at the game and some others just travelled for a better life.

The UEFA European Championship is one of the world’s best-watched football competitions, and the 2020 edition (played in 2021, no thanks to COVID-19) has been one of the most exciting. Players descent from different parts of the world also feature. Examples like Brazilians Jorginho and Emerson featuring for Italy also show a representation of other continents. Russia has São Paulo-born Mario Fernandes and the Dutch national team has so many players of Surinamese, Curaçao and Haitian origin in its ranks.

Players of Jamaican descent are also with the Three Lions but of all non-European by descents, Africa probably has the largest representation. At least 45 players of African roots are at the current Euros and many of them have starred and shone for their respective countries.

We have a team-by-team breakdown with the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo having the highest representation of the players of African roots at the competition. At least eight players have their roots originally in those countries from the many Africans at the tournament.

Austria

Captain of the Austrian national team and new Real Madrid signing, David Olatokunbo Alaba is of Nigerian descent. He has a Nigerian father and a Phillipino mother. He was born in Austria, where he grew up and cut his teeth in football.

His international teammate and Mainz attacker, Karim Onisiwo is also of Nigerian descent and their fathers are bosom friends.

Belgium

In the Belgian team to the Euros, there are at seven players of African descent with all of them playing a part so far. Defender Dedryck Boyata’s father is from Congo and he played for the Congolese national team. Nacer Chadli had once represented the Moroccan national team before switching allegiance to Belgium in 2010. Leicester midfielder, Youri Tielemans’ mother is from Congo while Mitchy Bashuayi’s parents are both Congolese. Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke are also both from DR Congo with Lukaku’s father playing for the old Zaire, while Benteke was born in Kinshasha. 19-year old Rennes winger, Jeremy Doku is Ghanaian by origin.

Denmark

One of the mainstays of the Danish national team, Yousouph Yurary Poulsen’s father is from Tanzania while his mother is Danish. The RB Leipzig attacker has amassed 57 caps for the Danes and has played at the World Cup.

England

Bukayo Saka’s parents, Abayomi and Adenike, are both from Nigeria. The 19-year old Arsenal star was born in England where he joined Arsenal as an eight-year old. He’s one of the youngest and brightest teenagers at the ongoing European Championship.

Finland

Rangers midfielder, Glenn Kamara hails from Sierra Leone where his father is from. He was born in Finland and grew up in England where he represented Arsenal as a youth player. He currently plays for the Finnish national team.

France

The French national team would make an African 11 easily and it is the European team with the highest number of players from Africa.

Olympique Marseille Goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda and defender, Presnel Kimpembe are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sevilla defender Joules Kounde’s father is from Benin Republic while Jacob Zouma is from the Central African Republic. Paul Pogba hails from Guinea and his older brothers play for the Guinean national team. Corentin Tolisso’s father is from Togo, Moussa Sissoko is from Mali, Ben Yedder from Tunisia, Karim Benzema from Algeria, Ousmane Dembele has Senegalese and Mauritanian parents, and Kylian Mbappe, with Cameroon and Algerian ancestry.

Germany

Antonio Rudiger who has been a mainstay in the German side in this Euros originally hails from Sierra Leone but was born in Berlin.

Bayern Munich teenage sensation, Jamal Musiala has a British-Nigerian father and a German mother. Although he’s yet to make any appearance so far, he’s considered as part of the future of German football.

Musiala’s Bayern Munich teammate, Leroy Sane also has his roots in Senegal while his other club and national teammate, Serge Gnabry’s father is from Ivory Coast.

The Netherlands have an abundance of Surinamese and Curacan players but also has their fair share of African-originated players. Star man, Memphis Depay’s father comes from Ghana, Nathan Ake’s from Ivory Coast and 19-year old Cody Gakpo’s parents are from Ghana and Togo.

Portugal

There are at least three Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa with Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau the most foremost. Cape Verde speaks both Portuguese and Spanish but players of those origins have pitched tents with the Portuguese national team.

Wolves defender, Nelson Semedo is of Cape Verdean origin, while his international teammate Danilo was born in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau. The PSG midfielder moved to Portugal when he was 5. His midfield partner, William Carvalho is of Angolan descent while Renato Sanches has a mix of São Tomé and Principe and Cape Verdean roots.

Spain

Adama Traore was the subject of an international tussle between Spain, where he was born and Mali where his parents originally come from. The Malian national team extended invitations to him and he accepted but chose to join the Spanish national team when they also came calling. His elder brother, Moha plays for the Malian senior national team.

Sweden

There are at least three players of African origin in the current Swedish team. Star attacker, Alexander Isak has his roots in Eritrea, Ken Sema is of Congolese descent, while Robin Quaison’s father is from Ghana.

Switzerland

The Swiss national team are also filled with many players of African roots with some of them standing out for their brilliance.

Yvon Mvogo is of Cameroon descent, Borussia Dortmund defender, Manuel Akanji’s father is from Nigeria, midfielder Jordan Lotomba is of Congolese and Angolan descent. Defender, Kevin Mbabu’s father is from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Others like Djibril Sow is Senegal, Borussia Moechenglabach’s Denis Zakaria is from South Sudan and Congo while star attacker, Breel Embolo was born in Cameroon.

Wales

The Welsh have been humbled out of the Euros after a 4-0 trouncing in the hands of Denmark. They however didn’t have their defender of Ghanaian roots, Ethan Ampadu in action having received his matching orders in their third group game against Italy.

Ben Cabango who wasn’t really involved in the competition has his ancestry in Angola.

The Euros currently has many players of African origin starring and possibilities are high that at least one player of African ancestry will emerge winner.

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