Africa and the UEFA European Championship

The contribution African footballers have made to world football is incredible. For decades both at club level and at international level, these players are responsible for raising the standard of professional football and inspiring millions to try and follow in their footsteps. All across the best leagues in the world, African players and those of African origin represent a large proportion of the greatest players currently playing the game. The influence of these players has spread outside Africa and now a significant majority of the world’s national teams have players of African origin playing for them at the highest level.
There has been a long history of players of African origin playing in the European Championships and this year’s competition is no different. France won in 2000 with a team including Patrick Viera, Marcel Desailly and Nicolas Anelka. In the same year Patrick Kluivert was top goal scorer and other players who have played a big impact in tournaments include Mario Balotelli, Danny Welbeck and Karim Benzema. There are many other examples I could name as well but these are just a few.

These players have raised the standard of both the European competition and of the countries they play for. Players like Anelka and Kluivert were the best in the world and played an important part in making the European Championships such a brilliant and entertaining competition that is watched all over the world. Their work rate, speed and technical ability has improved the level of the players they play with.
With the 2016 European Championships starting last week in France, here are a few players of African origin who are looking to make a big impact at the tournament.
1) Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku was born in Antwerp, Belgium but both his parents come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. His father, Roger, played for Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) national team at the 1994 and 1996 African Cup of Nations. Lukaku is one of the best strikers in the world and currently plays for Everton in the Premier League where he has scored 61 goals in the past three seasons. He is known for his power and strength and has previously played for Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion and Anderlecht.
2) Jérôme Boateng
Boateng was born in Berlin and has played for Germany over 60 times. His mother is German whilst his father is from Ghana. Jérôme’s half-brother, Kevin-Prince Boateng represents Ghana and has 15 caps for the Black Stars, including at the 2010 World Cup, where Ghana reached the quarter finals. Jérôme’s middle name is Agyenim, which means “the great one” in Ashante Twi, the language spoken by his father, and he also has a tattoo of that word. He currently plays for Bayern Munich and has previously played for Manchester City, Hamburg and Hertha BSC.
3) Christian Benteke
Benteke was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Liège in Belgium when he was a child. The Liverpool striker is one of the most powerful strikers in the world and is an important part of the Belgium national team. He has scored over 50 Premier League goals since 2012, including 42 for Aston Villa. Benteke is part of the best ever Belgium team who are hoping to win Euro 2016 for the first time.
4) David Alaba
David Alaba is the super star of the Austria national team and made his debut when he was just 17 years old. His mother is from the Philippines and his father is a prince from Ogere in Nigeria. Alaba plays for Bayern Munich and former coach Pep Guardiola has called him “God” because of his versatility. Alaba can play in midfield and on the left and right wing but his preferred position is left-back. He has played 42 times for Austria, scoring 11 goals. He has won the Bundesliga six times and the Champions-League in 2013 with Bayern Munich.
5) William Carvalho
Carvalho is one of the most exciting young players in Europe and is a defensive midfielder for Portugal. He was born in Luanda, Angola and moved to Portugal when he was a few years old. His grandfather and uncle were also footballers and played for Angolan club Progresso Associação do Sambizanga. Carvalho was voted player of the tournament at the UEFA under 21 European championships and has played for Portugal 20 times. He currently plays for Sporting Lisbon.
5) Theodor Gebre Selassie
Gebre Selassie plays at right-back for the Czech Republic national team. His mother is a Czech teacher and his father is an Ethiopian doctor. He made his national debut in 2011 and has played 34 times, including at Euro 2012 and now Euro 2016. Gebre Selassie is seen as one of the best right-backs in the competition and currently plays for Werder Breman in Germany.
The tournament runs from the 11th June- 11th July with the final being held at the Stade de France in Paris. Which player do you think will have the biggest impact on the competition?

FINLAY DONALDSON

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