Before Sunday’s Euro 2016 final between France and Portugal, the fact that eleven players in the French squad traced their roots back to Africa provoked much lively discussion. Would the “African players” win it for France? Portugal’s extra-time winner killed those hopes and, amazingly, it has also given another African “export” Éder his time to shine. So is Africa the real winner here?
France and Portugal’s colonial past was on full display at the Euro 2016 finals on Sunday night. Eleven of the players in French squad and six of those in the Portuguese team were African “exports”. In all, the children of second generation African emigrants who had been naturalized into the national teams of the two European footballing powerhouses made up 37% of the players in the two squads.
France were the strong favourites. They had home ground advantage and boasted the stronger team, at least on paper, mainly due to the aforementioned African “exports”. Portugal had, after all, finished third in their group. Then there was also the small matter of history. France had a 10-game winning streak going against Portugal that stretched all the way back to 1975.
Cristiano Ronaldo who?
The odds were stacked even more heavily in France’s favour after Portugal talisman and team captain Cristiano Ronaldo was forced off in the first half due to a knee injury. The French made a meal of Ronaldo’s absence with a relentless barrage of attacks. Somehow, Portugal clung on.
It would all pay off for Portugal in the second period of extra time thanks to striker Éder who volleyed home beautifully to stun French kipper Hugo Lloris.
At last, a goal!!#Eder#PORpic.twitter.com/GQVIwPlo9V
— Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) July 10, 2016
In the end, the crop of African “exports” in the French team were denied victory by a player who traces his roots to Guinea-Bissau. Éder , real name Éderzito António Macedo Lopes, was born in Bissau in December 1987. Like teammate Danilo Pereira who was also born in Bissau, Éder moved to Portugal as a child. Following his heroics at the final, his links to Africa were the subject of many Tweets.
Straight outta’ Guinea-Bissau with a belter. #Eder #POR pic.twitter.com/25PsqbfTIe
— Just Football (@JustFootball) July 10, 2016
#Eder the African (Guinea Bissau) sensation wins it for #POR Been trully an #AfricanEuropean final #Euro2016Final pic.twitter.com/oQoDNDHt0K
— I am Because We Are (@joshchivanga) July 10, 2016
Source: This Is Africa