born in Africa, the hero of the euro

More than 30 players born on the African continent have already taken part in the final phase of the European Championships – the 16th edition starts on 11 June 2021 in Rome – and 6 of them have even won the competition.

By Xavier Barret,

You can be born in Bamako and become European champion: Jean Tigana did it in 1984. You can be born in Dakar and win the Euro: Patrick Vieira did it in 2000, together with Marcel Desailly, him – even born in Accra. For more than 30 years, only these 3 Africans from birth who wore the French team’s blue jersey had been able to win the Grail on the old continent: the Henri-Delaunay Trophy, named after the Frenchman who inspired the competition and first UEFA Secretary General (1954). But at the end of Euro 2016, the contingent of players born in Africa has been named European Champion doubled and it is not France who won this time. In the Portuguese selection that surprised the blues at the Stade de France, there were no less than 3 players born in Africa: the defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira (who now plays for PSG), from Guinea-Bissau, his alter ego William Carvalho (Sevilla Betis), native in Angola, as well as Eder (Lokomotiv Moscow), goal scorer for the Lusitanian victory in the final, also born in Bissau.

About thirty players born in Africa …

If there are now 6 Africans from birth on the Euro lists, many more of them were born on the “black continent” and have participated in the competition. There are about thirty of them (see list below) and the largest contingent in the history of the European Championship is not in France but in Portugal. No less than 14 players born in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome, DRC and even South Africa have thus been selected by successive Portuguese coaches for one or more editions of “Euro”. And from the first qualification in Portugal for the final, 1984 in France, a striker born 32 years earlier in the Benguela competition splashed: Rui Manuel Trindade Jordao made a stay against the French team Platini and Tigana (3-2 AP), in the semifinals in Marseille, and almost eliminated him … 32 years before your goal in the final. Jordao died in 2019 at the age of 67, is still the first target for the euro born in Africa.

Among these many Portuguese from Africa, another figure stands out: Abel Xaviers. If we remember his increasingly imaginative hairstyles, the Mozambique-born defender marked the history of the competition with his hand in the penalty area that offered a “golden penalty” to Zinédine Zidane in the 117th minute of the match. Semifinal France- Portugal (2-1) of Euro 2000 in Brussels. And yet Abel Xavier only played two matches in the final phase of the euro …

Alain Boumsong: “The choice between the France team and … nothing”

If Portugal is at the top of the list of nations that have chosen the most players born in Africa for the euro, France is really in first place in terms of the number of matches played by these ambassadors. We actually find 3 Blues on the podium for the Africans after birth who are most present in the competition: Marcel Desailly, with 12 matches in the final stages 1996, 2000 and 2004, before 2 natives in Dakar, Patrice Evra (10 matches 2008, 2012 and 2016) and Patrick Vieira (9 matches in 2000 and 2004 because he could not play in 2008). Three pillars of the Blues who in total have many coats and have chained several campaigns with the France team. The selection next to them for Euro 2004 (1 match) and Euro 2008 (1 match) had Jean-Alain Boumsong, born in Douala, not hesitated to gather the blues: “Binationals often have the choice between several choices from an early age, it analyzes earlier defender of Auxerre and Lyon.African federations are now better organized and the choice of players is difficult as we saw with Nabil Fekir.This choice must be difficult because it is important.In my time I had the choice between the France team and … nothing “But some in Cameroon then considered me a traitor. Fortunately, it was only a minority.”

Even the finalist in the 2006 World Cup with the Blues, Boumsong, now a consultant for Canal + Sport, remembers the effects of the euro in Africa: “During the World Cup, football fans support African teams, but during the euro they are more divided. They follow the tournament because they know it is a competition where the level is raised but they do not always have a favorite team. So if there is a selection with players of African descent in their ranks, they can choose it. In Cameroon, where I was born, and in French-speaking countries, the French team is still very popular, but among our neighbors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is rather Belgium. The colonial past still plays an important role in the preferences of the supporters. ”


Among the thirty players born in Africa who were selected for a final phase of the European Championship, only 27 participated in at least one match. 6 remained on the replacement bench.

12 matches

Marcel Desailly, born in Accra, France in 1996, 2000 and 2004

10 matches

Patrice Evra, born in Dakar, France in 2008, 2012 and 2016

9 matches

Patrick Vieira, born in Dakar, France in 2000, 2004 and 2008

8 matches

Dimas, born in Johannesburg, Portugal 1996, 2000

6 matches

Claude Makélélé, born in Kinshasa, France in 2004 and 2008

Gelson Fernandes, born in Praia, Switzerland 2008, 2016

5 matches

Jean Tigana, born in Bamako, Euro 1984

William Carvalho, born in Luanda, Portugal in 2016

Danilo Pereira, born in Bissau, Portugal 2016

4 matches

Claudio Gentile, born in Tripoli, Italy in 1980

Jordao, born in Benguela, Portugal in 1984

Hélder Cristovao, born in Luanda, Portugal in 1996

Vidigal, born in Sa da Bandeira, Portugal in 2000

Johan Djourou, born in Abidjan, Switzerland 2008, 2016

Brel Embolo, born in Yaoundé, Switzerland 2016

3 matches

Oceano, born in Sao Vicente, Portugal in 1996

Rolando, born in Sao Vicente, Portugal in 2012

Eder, born in Bissau, Portugal 2016

2 matches

Jorge Cadete, born in Pemba, Portugal in 1996

Abel Xavier, born in Nampula, Portugal in 2000

Jean-Alain Boumsong, born in Douala, France in 2004 and 2008

José Bosingwa, born in Mbandaka, Portugal in 2008

Christian Benteke, born in Kinshasa, Belgium 2016

1 match

George Lamia, born in La Calle (Algeria), France in 1960

Mbo Mpenza, born in Kinshasa, Belgium in 2000

0 match

Steve Mandanda, born in Kinshasa, France in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020

Paulo Madeira, born in Luanda, Portugal in 1996

Nuno Espirito Santo, born in Sao Tome and Principe, Portugal in 2008

Jores Okore, born in Abidjan, Denmark in 2012

Christian Kabasele, born in Lubumbashi, Belgium 2016

François Moubandje, born in Douala, Switzerland in 2016


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