FANTA-SIX: ‘Africans’ Who Could Have Graced AFCON 2019


A day spent listening to several replays of ImRana’s hit single, ‘Imagine Say’, got me, well, imagining: what if some of the world’s finest stars of African origin — albeit playing for countries in the West — were present at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations?

To find out, let’s switch briefly to fantasy football mode with these six, drawn — surprise, surprise — from France and Belgium:


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The hottest commodity in football, like many players who have turned out great for Les Bleus, is of African extraction — the product of a Cameroonian dad and an Algerian mom. Needless to say, either team would sparkle a bit more with Mbappe’s zip and his goals. And, really, who wouldn’t want a young man who has won a Fifa World Cup and reached 100 professional goals before his 21st birthday?


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Not many strikers would be content with 20 appearances and 7 goals in all competitions during a campaign, but Uefa Champions League-winning star Divock Origi would proudly flaunt those figures, given the sort of season he’s just had for Liverpool. There is no bigger big-game player in the world right now, arguably, and Kenya would be glad to have such a character lead its attack at the Afcon. But that prospect isn’t to be for the Harambee Stars; Origi’s father, Mike, may have represented Kenya as a footballer, but his son has chosen Belgium, the land of his birth. End of story.


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In many ways, Kante mirrors the Mali team that has claimed bronze at two of the last four Afcons: unglamorous and unassuming, yet efficient and effective. The Eagles have struggled at recent editions of the tournament, however, and the French international’s presence in their current setup could catalyze a revival of fortunes. Kante is as valuable a workhorse as Mali could wish to have, but you know what they say about wishes and horses, right?


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No, don’t slide to the next page just yet, charley; you read right: Kevin De Bruyne — Burundi. See, the Belgian midfield gem is was eligible for the eastern African nation, his mother’s birthplace (that’s the summary; Wikipedia has the detailed version). Frankly, though, there was little chance of that happening but, oh, how different Burundi would have looked on its Afcon debut with KDB lining up!


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Damn reality, for a moment, and behold: a Guinea team hinged on the £141 million-rated midfield duo of Naby Keita and Paul Pogba, so brilliant that they only leave Afcon 2019 with the title. Now, open those eyes and face the real world: Pogba is France’s biggest star, and Guinea would have to do with a half-fit Keita in Egypt. Move on.


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Dembele would have been spoilt for choice had he even decided against playing for France: Mali (dad), Senegal and Mauritania (mom) all called. And one would suspect that the latter would be in greater need of the Barcelona forward’s wizardry, considering this is Al-Murabitun’s debut at the continental showpiece and that they don’t exactly have a locker full of Dembele-esque talent. Ah, if only Mauritania were Neverland!

Sammie Frimpong — Daily Mail GH



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