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Koulibaly example opens up nationality debate among African fans

12:13 AM GMT+4 06/04/2022
Kalidou Koulibaly Senegal 2021-22
The continent’s supporters are divided on the benefit of dual-nationality players at international level

by Joel Omotto

Opinion is divided on whether players born and raised in Europe who choose to play for African countries of their origin are doing so for the right reasons, and whether their decision to represent the continent’s sides make African football stronger.

The debate was reignited online by @SulkyNico who documented some of the reasons why players may switch allegiance while assessing the benefits to the African countries.

They used Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly as an example after the Napoli defender’s recent comments that he changed nationalities having waited—in vain—for a France call-up.

While some African fans believe this kind of switch is great the continent, some are of the opinion that such players are opportunists, who are treating African nations as backups after failing to be selected by senior national sides.

“Imagine you raised someone else's child from birth, gave him everything and then his real dad comes along and wants to take him away after contributing nothing,” wrote @HarryNorton on Twitter. “I guess that's how these European countries can feel sometimes.”

@georgebazz1 weighed in with the example of a player who could have featured for Nigeria, but instead plumped to commit to England’s Three Lions.

“Look at Fikayo Tomori,” he began. “England made sure he cannot play for Nigeria anymore. So frustrating because Tomori has world class potential and could have marshalled Nigeria's defence for years. Now, he can't even get an England call up.”

Some preferred to focus on the example of Koulibaly himself.

“He got snubbed by France national team and made it seem like he wanted Senegal from the onset. If France had called him, he would have played for them. The thread is true but it shouldn’t come from him,” responded @IKAY, in response to the centre-back’s decision to switch from France to Senegal.

“I have had this discussion with my dad too about how amazing it would be if the Nigerian players who are playing for England and other European countries would help Africa a lot if they played for their respective countries,” commented @folshed.

@funnywalkingboy threw in another twist, noting: “What is not mentioned is that these players you highlighted are the product of European systems, not African ones.

“Would these players have made it to the top if they grew up in Dakar or Lagos? Africa needs to get it right and produce our players like we used to.”

He added: “Let’s invest in our systems then those players will actually be more eager to be play for us instead of waiting to poach players that are produced by European investment because of bloodlines.

“That’s why African teams have gone down in performance in global tournaments.”

One final comment added in the example of Bundesliga star man Christopher Nkunku, who appears to have decided his future is with France, despite the interest of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I wish you could also add Congolese players playing for France and the recent case of Nkunku, who was about to be called in the DRC squad to face Morocco when he suddenly received a call to the France national team,” said @davidjrdasilver.