The 2018 FIFA World Cup first semi-final between France and Belgium at St Petersburg will attract particular interest from Africans due to the fact that both teams have several players of African origins.
The five African countries Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Senegal, have since left the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia, leaving their supporters and other soccer aficionados from the continent with the hazard choice of adhering to other teams at the tournament.
Many fans pick national teams which have their favourite club players, while others choose by virtue of performance, or past records. In Africa, it will be different for this World Cup semi-final.
In fact, 22 players from both sides are related to Africa.
The father of Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany is from DR Congo. The defender says victory for the Red Devils is also a victory for the people of Congo.
Like Kompany, Dedryck Boyata’s father is also a Congolese same as Michy Batshuayi and Romelu Lukaku for both parents, while Mousa Dembélé’s father is from Mali, originally. Another of Congolese origin is Youri Tielemans.
There are also players with North African origin in the squad like Marouane Fellaini, whose parents hail from Tangier in Morocco and Nacer Chadli, who still holds Moroccan nationality.
“Here in DR Congo, everybody is proud watching the FIFA World Cup because we have our sons and brothers there with Belgium and France. Those are the teams we in Congo will support until the end. Either side will have our support,” Anthony Ngoma, a retired pharmacist in Kinshasa told ACLsports.
“Sometimes you are tempted to feel “why are they not playing for the Leopards here?” But ask yourself, have we been able to build the infrastructure and environment to keep such talents? Would they have reached this height at the World Cup if they chose DR Congo national team?”
France even have more players with African roots, with 15 out of the 23 directly or indirectly connected to the continent.
Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Samuel Umtiti, Adil Rami and Steve Mandanda are among those hoping to make Africa proud in Les Bleus colours on Tuesday.
“I have said it before. France can play Africa Cup of Nations. Almost all of the continent’s sub regions are represented in the team,” said Rash Nguessan of Ivory Coast’s state radio Frequence 2.
“More are leaving. Our talents are leaving and then tomorrow when we see them playing with Germany, Spain, Italy and England, we start biting fingers. The success of these teams that have African players in them shows that we have the potential to succeed as well if we are serious with ourselves.”
African support for both teams ahead of the game appears to be balanced, with slight tilt in favour of Belgium, who boast of more Premier League players – probably the reason.
“The 2018 FIFA World Cup would be historic for Africa if Belgium or France clinch the ultimate,” Diallo Pappi, a statistician from Guinea said.