The European Nations Cup is the biggest competition in UEFA and like in previous years, players with African heritage was duly represented in the 2016 edition.
Perhaps the biggest African to have played at this stage is current Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane who after helping France to life the World Cup in 1998 won the Euro 2000 as France became the first team to hold both the World Cup and the European Championship since West Germany in 1974 and the Algerian born midfielder was named Player of the Tournament by UEFA.
Mario Balotelli springs to mind also, as he was born to Ghanaian parents but represents Italy and was a leading light for the Azzurri’s in 2012 when they reached the Euro finals but lost the title to Spain.
However, it is amazing to note that 43 players with African roots are currently involved in the competition this summer, five of whom are of Nigerian decent – David Alaba (Austria), Dele Alli (England), Angelo Ogbonna (Italy), Rubin Okotie (Austria) and Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales).
Alaba is the biggest of them all as he is very vital to the Austria team like a baby that cannot do without the mother’s breast milk. He is currently the Player of the Year in Austria an award he has now won three times consecutively.
Dele Alli is a sure started for England after his remarkable season with Tottenham Hotspurs it wasn’t a huge surprise that manager Roy Hodgson entrusted with so such responsibility as to playing in the hole –just in front of Captain Wayne Rooney and behind Wayne Rooney.
Ogbonna is not a super regular for the Italian national side but a very reliable talent that also had a very successful club year with West Ham in the English premier league.
Robinson-Kanu is hoping to get a new team this summer as he contract with Reading expires at the end of June and with his goal in the opening game for Wales in their 2-1 win over Slovakia, clubs will be looking to sign him on now.
29-year-old Rubin Okotie was born in Pakistan to a Nigerian father and an Austrian mother and currently plays for 1860 Munich. He played a huge role in Austria’s Euro 2016 qualification as he scored the deciding goals against Russia and Montenegro.
Here is the full list of players of African heritage at the Euro 2016:
David Alaba (Austria), Dele Alli (England), Angelo Ogbonna (Italy), Rubin Okotie (Austria) and Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales).
William Carvalho (Portugal) and Blaise Matuidi (France).
Breel Embolo (Switzerland), Francois Moubandje (Switzerland) and Samuel Umtiti (France).
Eliseu (Portugal), Gelson Fernandez (Switzerland), Joao Mario
(Portugal), Luis Nani (Portugal) and Renato Sanchez (Portugal).
COTE D VOIRE
JOHAN DJOUROU (Switzerland) and JONATHAN TAH (Germany).
Stephen El Shaarawy (Italy).
Theodor Gebre Selassie (Czech Republic).
Jerome Boateng (Germany).
Paul Pogba (France).
Danilo Pereira and Eder (Portugal).
Martin Olsson (Sweden) and Divock Origi (Belgium). MALI has 3players namely Moussa Dembele (Belgium), Ngolo Kante (France) and Moussa Sissoko (France).
Marouane Fellaini (Belgium), Adil Rami (France).
CONGO DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC has 9players
Michy Batshuayi (Belgium), Christian Benteke (Belgium), Jason Denayer (Belgium), Christian Kabasele (Belgium), Jordan Lukaku (Belgium), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Steve Mandanda (France), Eliaquim Mangala (France) and Denis Zakaria (Switzerland).
Patrice Evra (France), Bacary Sagna (France) and Leroy Sane (Germany).
Sami Khedira (Germany).
EXTRAS: The 44th would have been the Belgium and Manchester City Captain Vincent Kompany who is from CONGO but he was ruled out of the competition due to injury.
Portugal Captain Cristiano Ronaldo can lay claim to some African heritage as his great grandmother Isabel da Piedade hails from Cape Verde.