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Are African football players finally coming home?

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14.06.2018

In 1998, when France won the World Cup, the slogan "black, blanc et beur" was popularly used to describe its team. It reflected the diverse ethnic background of its players - black, white, and beur, or European-born to North African parents.

Among France's top players were Senegalese-born Patrick Vieira, Ghanian-born Marcel Desailly, and French-born (to Algerian parents) Zinedine Zidane, whose "Frenchness" came into question after he headbutted Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup final.

Europe's national and club teams have long benefitted from the talent of players of African background - whether African-born or born to immigrant parents in Europe. Africa has bled football talent to Europe for decades now, which has been detrimental to the development of its professional football.

But, for a while now, a curious new trend has developed. More and more players of African descent have started coming back to the continent to play for their national teams. In this year's World Cup, for example, 17 of Morocco's 23 players are European born, mostly in the Netherlands, which has a large Moroccan immigrant community. Medhi Benatia, the team's captain, is French-born.

In 2009, Arsenal's French-born striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, announced his decision to play for Gabon, despite being offered a spot in Italy's and France's national youth teams. In 2012, Aubameyang, whose father is Gabonese, reached the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations with his team.

Just before the 2010 World Cup, German-born Kevin-Prince Boateng decided to play for Ghana, where his father is from. Before that, he........

© Al Jazeera