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Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Nationality and Sport

The Identity of French World Cup Team
Aba boy has written an excellent piece on why black people and immigrants would identify with the success of the French Team. The French team that started the match against Spain on Monday had seven black players in its starting line up. Of the eleven players who started, nine had parents who were not born on the French Mainland and were either first or second generation immigrants. Thierry Henry & William Gallas have parents that come from Guadeloupe while Lilian Thuram was actually born in Guadeloupe, Patrick Vieira's roots are Senegalese and is a naturalized Frenchman, Sidney Govou's parents come from the Republic of Benin, Florent Malouda was born in French Guiana, and Claude Makelele was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The French Manager has also stoked controversy by claiming that his team were subject to racist chants by Spanish fans before the match. This in addition to the awful comments the Spanish Manager Luis Aragones made in relation to Thierry Henry. Nkem at African Shirts said we are all Ghanian now, and yes early on Monday evening I was Ghanian, but from 8pm I became French.

On representing "your country" in Sporting Tournaments
Many Africans move to Europe and North America in search of a better life and many settle down in these places to raise families. The children of these immigrants then grow up as indigenes and for those who turn to sport may then end up representing these countries in whatever field they specialise in. An example of this is Freddy Adu, the teenage football prodigy who moved to the USA from Ghana at the age of eight. Barring injury or a totally unexpected dip in form, this teenager will probably be the Star of the 2010 world cup in South Africa while he represents the USA. (imagine my suprise in typing 'Adu' into google and the first entry is relating to Freddy? What happened to the global phenomena that is Sade?).

Other sportspeople face more complex decisions when choosing which country to represent as they may have moved to another country as an adult professional in search active support and development. Emmanuel Olisadebe represented Poland at the 2002 World Cup scoring for his adopted country while Nigeria failed to qualify for the second round of the tournament as we stuggled to cope with the aging talent of Nwankwo Kanu.

Francis Obikwelu born in Nigeria and after representing his country of birth in a couple of World Championships made a decision to run for Portugal because of neglect by Nigerian sports officials when he was injured while representing Nigeria. In the 2004 Olympic Games he won the silver medal in the 100m final for Portugal. When I watched that final I experienced complex emotions, pride for his acheivement, shame that he wasn't able to represent Nigeria and embarassment that I was 'claiming' a success that now belonged to Portugal.

In 2003 the BBC asked Does the Flag Matter? as many African athletes were representing and winning medals for other countries during the World Championships; Wilson Kipketer (800m) representing Denmark, Nigeria's Gloria Alozie (100m hurdles) for Spain and Sierra Leone lost silver medal winning heptathlete Eunice Barber to France.

Salomon Kalou was born in Cote d'Ivoire and moved to the Netherlands at age 17. Earlier this year he sought accelerated naturalization as a Dutch Citizen in order to play for Holland at this World Cup. This bid failed and he never got to play. Strangely enough the Netherlands and Côte d'Ivoire were allocated to the same group in the first round. If Kalou had become a Dutch citizen and was selected for the Netherlands, he could have played against his native country. Meanwhile in a case where reality is almost stranger than fiction his older brother, Bonaventure featured for Côte d'Ivoire in Germany. If the Côte d'Ivoire had the striking talent of the young Salomon perhaps they would have been the second African team in the Second round.

What is the future of African Sport when its best and most talented stars now choose to represent European and North American Countries? Should they retain a sense of patriotism despite the odds and continue to wave the flag of their countries of origin?

29 Comments:

Anonymous aihammed delot said...

to be honest, i dont think theres much of a problem with football. you tend to find that people like Emmanuel Olisadebe were "allowed to slip through" the nigerian selectors nets cos he just isnt good enough to play up front for Nigeria. there are at least 10...yeah 10 Naija boys i'd pick in front of him (even the ageing kanu) the way to get around is is to give them just the one international debut when they're young - they cant play for anyone else after that.
Athletics is now a joke tarnished with Bribery, corruption, drugs and beg legislation. you shouldnt under any circumstances be able to jump ship like most of these african athletes. does obikwelu want to tell me that money and money alone wasnt his motivating factor for ditching Nigeria? same with alozie...whats her excuse..."nigeria didnt pay for my plane ticket?" or some BS we've heard thousands of times before. what about that international Kenyan athlete who represents Quatar...whats that about?
its pathetic really, cos all it means is that Africa's best talent can and will very easily be baught...the only reason why legislation isnt similar to football is just cos...u guessed it - the fat bastards on top are too busy stuffing their pockets with brown envelopes.

11:22 am, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Aba Boy said...

@Morountodun

Thanks!

You ask "What is the future of African Sport when its best and most talented stars now choose to represent European and North American Countries?"

I think it’s unpromising, I can see more sportsmen from Africa flying other flags not for the love of that country, but because it makes monetary and individual sense.

11:54 am, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Emmanuel.K.Bensah II said...

I think aba boy has made an interesting point about the monetary value, but, then again, where is the patriotism?

for example, freddie adu wanting to play for ghana now that he sees the black stars have a chance, is just this side of hypocritical, especially when he refused to play for ghana when asked initially!!

africans who chose to fly the flag of their adopted countries must have heavy consciences...cos it aint easy!!

5:01 pm, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous TRAE said...

you know what i dont really blame Francis Obikwelu and Gloria Alozie for jumping ships. in naija there's nothing like welfare. you're on top everyone's happy, you've got problems you're on your own. moreover there was better pay at the other side. it's a cold world out there, you're on top today tomorrow you're down. a case in point is the deceased singer Lynden David Hall. dude bowed to cancer and died broke...when he was making his money and being wasteful/generous/turning down shows he never would have thought that in years to come he would need millions to save his life. in summary yes love your country and don't worship the dollar but GET THAT MONEY!...lol

PS: the Lynden David Hall example is part fact and part fiction. i'm sorry if it was a disrespectful.

5:56 pm, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Chxta said...

They should play for their native countries no questions asked.

In my book, native country is the country of your birth...

9:45 am, June 30, 2006  
Blogger Morountodun said...

@ Chxta I think the problem is a bit more complex than place of birth. While I'm not a sportsperson I was born in england and have spent the majority of my life here but my identity and outlook is distinctly Nigerian. Efan Ekoku was born in Manchester and chose to play for Nigeria in the World Cup 1994, he was also a part of the African Nations Cup winning squad that year.

@ Delot Giving the player an international debut when they are young is also equally cynical. Nigeria would have loved to have used the talents of John Salako (Nigerian born) but this ambition was killed by the 3 England caps that never went anywhere. Re: the athletes representing other countries I sometimes sympathise as they are often based in these countries and are lured by the potential government sponsorship when they may be stuggling to survive as professional athletes so I wouldn't be so quick to write it off as bullshit. The Nigerian Sports Authority is so corrupt and are less likely to sponsor anyone but themselves how are the athletes supposed to eat while training to represent their countries of choice?

@ Aba Boy I feel you man but this 'mercenary' attitude threatens to make me weep.

@ Mr Bensah. Has Freddie offered to come on board? Chei, Chei, Chei.

10:17 pm, June 30, 2006  
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