Former France player Geoffrey Kondogbia donned the colours of an African national team for the first time on Friday when he captained Central African Republic (C.A.R) against Ivory Coast in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The 25-year-old Valencia midfielder was born in France to Central African parents and only accepted to make a nationality switch to play for the Fauves last month after losing hope of playing for France.
“I can’t really say I chose C.A.R out of frustration, perhaps it’s destiny and I just have to accept it,” Kondogbia told ACLsports in Bouake where the qualifier was played.
“I feel at home in C.A.R. It’s the land of my parents and forefathers. We are trying to build a competitive team that can participate in international competitions. That’s the project that lured me in,” he said.
However, with a huge number of European-born players of African descent who are still reluctant to make a nationality switch, the former Inter Milan player believes the images and reports emanating from African teams keep turning many off.
“I think first of all is infrastructure. African authorities need to bridge the huge gap and stay close to European standard like North Africans are doing. The sports facilities need to improve. That alone is enough to convince many to come. Africa has to do more.”
C.A.R. lost heavily to the Elephants who walked away with a 4-0 victory, but Kondogbia believes his side realised some progress and that the future remains bright.
“Our team can’t be compared with a star studded Ivory Coast. We are young and getting to know each and build confidence. The result of this match can’t be used to judge who we are now and what we would become in the near future. We played according to our strength.”
Both teams will meet again on Tuesday in Bangui (C.A.R) for the return leg, with Guinea close to clinching the first spot of the group (H) following a 2-0 win over bottom-placed Rwanda on Friday.