The battle of retaining African talent to represent African nations continues with another promising star swearing allegiance to France. West Ham United new signing, Issa Diop follows a pack of other players of African descent who prefered to play for France. For us, it still remains a mystery why the numbers continue to increase especially considering how African teams have gotten stronger in recent years and are as good as any other team in the world. Tinotenda Magiya explores why.
Lack of connection to the roots
Who are we to judge one's own decision especially without enough context. Often times, some players are raised by African parents outside the motherland. Some grow up without that bond that comes from being born and raised from within the continent. That sense of patriotism you find in a Liberian for example, may not be easy to come by for a Liberian born and raised in the USA. Some are not raised speaking African vernacular which makes it hard to feel a part of a certain country or region on the continent. This does not help in their decision making because players feel responsible for helping their team and they cannot help a nation they do not relate with. Instead, we find players like Kylian Mbappe choosing to play for France despite being born of a father from Cameroon and a mother from Algeria. His whole life has been in France and he understands the French culture. As such, players swear their allegiance to nations of their upbringing and they continue to dominate.
Lack of success at the World Cup
Our continent's lack of success in the biggest individual sporting event on the planet does not help our cause. It is every player's dream to win the FIFA World Cup with their nation and no African country has made it to the semifinals of this competition let alone lift it. Again, this is something that a player will obviously look at when assessing their chances of winning the tournament. Picking a team like France would be a logical decision considering the experience the nation has in preparing for a tournament like that and going all the way. Not much can be said about a nation like Morocco even though they are making strides towards being a competitive team by seeding their best players in Europe's top leagues.
Small progress in developing facilities
For many years, Africa has been legging far behind Europe, America and now Asia. The continent has not seen enough development in the years after colonial rule. As a result, not much progress has been made to improve the infrastructure in some African countries. Issa Diop might have considered the fact that he had to be patient with the likes of Senegal and Morocco as they slowly progress towards developing their own world class facilities that improve soccer players' training and preparations. At 21 years of age, the young defender probably considered how short his career as a football player is and thought that it would be best to snub the African teams.
In the end, Issa Diop has decided to try his luck out with the French national team. Who can blame him? France just won the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with a very young squad. They will be looking to dominate like that Spanish side with that Barcelona and Real Madrid core - and Issa Diop wants to be a part of that. We wish him the very best in his national career for he is a great prospect with so much potential.
But what does this mean for Africa? What do we have to do in order to avoid this from happening again?
"Issa Diop might have considered the fact that he had to be patient with the likes of Senegal and Morocco as they slowly progress towards developing their own world class facilities that improve soccer players' training and preparations." - Tinotenda Magiya, FirstTouch Africa
1. Develop World Class facilities. There is so much raw talent from within the continent and abroad. These facilities could motivate them to choose their mother nation.
2. Compete at the highest level. Export the energy from the African Cup of Nations to the FIFA World Cup and play without fear. Africa needs to be taken seriously.
3. Offer international call ups to young players to show faith in their talent. This could fend off interest from big European teams who are not likely to pick young players for their first team.