Africa's If Only kids Starlets who could have played at Afcon instead of the Nations League

Athletes of African origin, born or raised abroad, have regularly found themselves facing the dilemma of whether to represent the countries they were raised in, or that of their parents for whom they qualify.

French World Cup winning captain Marcel Desailly could have turned out for Ghana. Zinedine Zidane would have been eligible for Algeria had he not also played for France.

During this past week of UEFA Nations League competitions, a few more were added to the mix as a number of youngsters with bright futures turned out for Europe's teams.


For sheer headline-hogging accomplishment during a frenzied week of UEFA Nations League competition, look no further than Barcelona starlet Ansu Fati.

After coming on at halftime in Spain's 1-1 draw with Germany, the youngster was handed a start in the second game against Ukraine and proceeded to stamp a quite spectacular imprint on the game.

First he won a penalty within the opening two minutes and then rounded an excellent day at the office with a goal.

That goal was especially noteworthy. It made Fati the youngest player -- at 17 years and 311 days -- to score for Spain in 95 years, lowering the bar set by Juan Errazquin, who was the previous record holder at 18 years and 344 days.

That isn't something new to him, he had earned the same acclaim for Barcelona a year earlier. He was just 16 at the time.

Spain coach Luis Enrique, naturally, was full of praise: "It's not normal for him to have this spark and self-confidence at this age. But we'll try to manage that so he can help the team as much as possible, just like he did today.

"Even though I know him well and what he's capable of, I can't say I'm not surprised. He showed such bravery and daring to do what he did in the second minute, beating a player so naturally. I can't remember him doing anything like that before."

On the evidence of his display, there will be more and Spain will be the beneficiary. Rightly so, considering his life and career were shaped by Spain. But it could have been so different.

Ansu's father Bori, who emigrated to Spain via Portugal, is from Guinea Bissau and the youngster was eligible to represent the African country.

But he made it clear from the start that he is a Sevillian and would represent Spain. Having made his debut for Spain this weekend, he is lost to Guinea Bissau.


France, whose national team have had more players from the continent than almost any other, added two more debutants to their ranks this past week.

Defender Dayot Upamecano thumped in a header for the third goal as France topped Croatia 4-2 in their second match of the competition. It was only three days after his debut against Sweden.

Like Fati, the defender is also of Guinea Bissau origins. His full name of Dayotchanculle, is an honorary title for the village chief of Jeta Caoi, his family's home town.

Unlike Fati, the 21-year-old was born in France and despite representing them at junior level, was still eligible to represent Guinea Bissau.


What a breathtaking 10 days it has been for the 17-year-old Camavinga, who was born in the Cabinda province of Angola to parents from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two days after being called up as replacement for Guinea-born Paul Pogba, who was sidelined after a positive test for COVID-19, the youngster celebrated with a goal for Rennes in his last league game before the international break.

The call up made him the youngest player to be added to the French senior team since Rene Gerard in 1932. Gerard was 17 years, 9 months and 17 days old.

And on September 8, he made his debut for France in the 4-2 win over Croatia, coming on as a substitute for N'Golo Kante.

Prior to this however, Camavinga had been courted by Angola, with national coach Pedro Goncalves listing him in the under 17 World Cup squad.

He was also eligible to represent the DRC.


Whatever it is about prodigious teenagers of African origins and scoring international goals, it seems to be infectious.

Eighteen-year-old Jeremy Doku, born in Belgium of Ghanaian parentage, made his first appearance for Belgium against Denmark on September 5, coming in as an 88th minute substitute for Youri Tielemans.

Three days later, he started his first game, and scored the last goal in a 5-1 win against Iceland. Doku had been on the radar of Ghana, with Black Stars head coach CK Akunnor listing him among seven players he had met and spoken to during a tour of Europe early this year.

But this week's double appearance, and his obvious delight after Belgium's gain means his services are lost to Ghana.


Adam Idah scored a hattrick in a 4-2 FA Cup win over Preston North end in January, to become the first teenager to do so since Kelechi Iheanacho four years earlier.

That accomplishment prompted then Manager Mick McCarthy to hint that he might have earned himself a senior call up.

"He might have just got himself one," McCarthy said while working as a pundit during the game. It also sparked a war of words between Nigerian and Irish fans, as both sides jousted on Twitter over the nationality of the player.

Less than a year later, that battle has been won... and lost. The Cork-born son of a Nigerian father and Irish mother chose to throw his lot in with the Irish, making his debut in their 1-1 draw away to Bulgaria.


The 19-year-old Birkirkara forward becomes the latest of the Mbong family to represent his country of birth, joining his elder brother Joseph.

Mbong has represented Malta at under 17, under 19 and under 21 levels and his debut appearance in the 3-2 defeat to Faroe Islands was a natural progression.