Young footballer Mbaye Niang has chosen to decline an offer from the Senegalese Football Association in a hope that he may one day play for France. While it is a blow for the Terenga Lions, it is a positive step for French Football. France had been involved in a race row after high ranking officials had seemingly accepted a quota to limit black and North African footballers the chance to train at their academies. However, it was because of players training at these facilities, would enjoy the schooling and training and then choose to represent another country at senior level were some of the reasons that the French laws were so misguidedly drawn up. Their disastrous performance at South Africa’s World Cup could have been another.
There are several players that represent Senegal, Ghana, Algeria and Ivory Coast (and many more) who enjoyed the stewardship of French academies, most notably The Clairefontaine facility that has produced some of the brightest French and African talents over the years. However, it can also be said that France have reaped the benefit of their colonial past seeing as Zinedine Zidane (Algeria), Patrick Vieira (Senegal) and Lillian Thuram (Guadeloupe), three players who were crucial in France’s successful World Cup win in 1998, chose to represent the country of their birth. Today they boast Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri (Algeria) and Patrice Evra (Senegal) in their ranks who have elected to stick with France.
Whether or not Mbaye Niang’s decision to represent France is a turning point in this issue remains to be seen.