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Changing Nations Five notable Europe to Africa nationality switches

Following Wilfried Zaha's decision to switch from England to Ivory Coast, Pulse Sports' looks at five notable nationality switches involving African players.

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  play The Zaha Saga: Five notable Europe to Africa nationality switches

Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has submitted a request to FIFA to change his national allegiance from England (whose U-19, 21 and Senior Teams he played for from 2011 to 2013) to Ivory Coast, where he was born 24 years ago.

The former Manchester United whizkid will be eligible to play in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon for The Elephants if his request is processed in time.

Zaha wants to play for the Ivory Coast play

Zaha wants to play for the Ivory Coast

 

Before Zaha, though, many African stars have made well-publicized switches from their European ties to play for their motherlands.

Here's a look at five of them.

5. Quincy Owusu Abeyie (Netherlands to Ghana)

Quincy Owusu Abeyie (Netherlands to Ghana) play

Quincy Owusu Abeyie (Netherlands to Ghana)

 

At the 2005 World Youth Championship, Netherlands U-21’s Quincy Owusu Abeyie emerged as one of the most highly rated players, praised for his skill and explosive pace. Abeyie had been born to Ghanaian parents in Amsterdam in 1986.

Just two years after that tournament, Abeyie met the Ghana Football Association to discuss a possible switch in allegiances. He wanted to play for his parent’s country. That was in January 2007, but he had to wait until January 2008 for FIFA to approve of his request.

He played for the Black Stars at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations hosted at home in Ghana, scoring his debut goal in the third-place play-off against the Ivory Coast in a 4-2 win.

Now 30, Quincy, currently playing for NEC in the Dutch Eredivise, last played for Ghana five years ago.

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4. Victor Moses (England to Nigeria)

Victor Moses (England to Nigeria) play

Victor Moses (England to Nigeria)

 

Originally born in Lagos, Nigeria, Victor Moses moved to the U.K – a trip funded by his relatives  - as an ‘Asylum Seeker’ after his parents were killed when he was 11. He would go on to spend his formative years there, growing up to play for England’s U-16, 17, 19 and 21 national teams.

However, at senior level, Moses chose his country of birth over his adopted country, making his Nigeria debut after FIFA cleared him in 2012.

Chelsea’s 25-year-old winger has since played 27 times for the Super Eagles of Nigeria and has scored nine goals.

3. Frederic Kanoute (France to Mali)

Frederic Kanoute (France to Mali) play

Frederic Kanoute (France to Mali)

 

In 2004, FIFA changed eligibility rules to allow a footballer to play for a country where his mother or father was born.

Frederick Kanoute, who was born in Lyon, France and had played for the France U-21 national team while still playing for Olympique Lyon, chose to play for Mali (where his father was born) rather than France (where his mother was born).

He would go on to have a storied career with the Eagles of Mali, scoring 23 goals in 39 caps, earning the 2007 CAF African player of the Year. He retired in 2010, aged 33.

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2. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (France to Gabon)

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (France to Gabon) play

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (France to Gabon)

 

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is Gabon’s captain and highest ever scorer - with 21 goals in 52 caps – but he didn’t start out playing for the Central African Country.

He made his Gabon debut in March 2009, a month after representing the French U-21s in a friendly against Tunisia. He had been invited by the Italian U-19 team shortly before then too, while playing for AC Milan’s youth team.

Aubameyang, 27, the current holder of the CAF African Player of the Year, was originally born in France. His father, Pierre Francois ‘Yaya’ Aubameyang, a former Gabonese International footballer, is a current scout working with AC Milan, while his mother is French of Spanish descent.

1. Kevin-Prince Boateng (Germany to Ghana)

Kevin-Prince Boateng (Germany to Ghana) play

Kevin-Prince Boateng (Germany to Ghana)

 

Perhaps the most high-profile and most controversial of European-African nationality switches has to be that of Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Boateng was born in the German capital of Berlin in 1987 to a German mother and a Ghanaian father, and he indeed still has a German passport. He played for Germany’s U-17, 19 and 21 national teams before finally deciding to represent his father’s country as a senior.

He received his Ghanaian passport in May 2010, making his debut for the Black Stars in June 2010 against Latvia in a friendly after finally being cleared by FIFA.

He played at the 2010 World Cup, helping Ghana reach the Quarter Final, and retired immediately afterwards, only to return just in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he was sacked from camp for indiscipline.

Boateng has recently expressed his desire to play for Ghana again because he “just can’t say no to a third World Cup”, but the possibility remains mild as Ghana seem to be all but out of qualifying for Russia 2018.

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