TOI looks at some of the goal-scorers who are now carrying the hopes of their ‘adopted’ countries:
BUKAYO SAKA (ENG): Parents of the Arsenal striker hail from Ogun State in Nigeria, who left the African country to settle in London in search of a better living, before Saka was born. Interestingly, Bukayo is a name frequently used by the Yoruba tribe of southwest Nigeria.
RAHEEM STERLING (ENG): Born in Kingston to Jamaican parents, Sterling moved to London at the age of five. When the current Chelsea striker was a young boy, his dad was gunned down in an ambush. No wonder his mother had to take the decision to take him and his sister Lakima to leave Kingston and move to London.
MARCUS RASHFORD (ENG): The Manchester United forward hogged headlines for his charity work providing meals to poor children during the coronavirus pandemic. But just like his England teammate Sterling, Rashford too is of Caribbean ancestry, with his grandmother hailing from the island of St Kitts.
TIMOTHY WEAH (USA): What George Weah — the President of Liberia and the only African player to win World, European and African Footballer of the Year awards — could not do, his son Timothy realized that dream, scoring for USA on his debut at the World Cup. George won the Ballon d’Or five years after Timothy was born in Brooklyn, in 1995. Eligible to play for four countries — Timothy eventually settled for USA.
KYLIAN MBAPPE (FRANCE): If France are the ultimate melting pot of football talents with roots from Africa and beyond, Mbappe is certainly the face of this fusion. His father (Wilfried) has roots in Cameroon and his mother (Fayza Lamari) was a handball player from Algeria. When Kylian was born in Paris in December 1998, five months after Zinedine Zidane & Co.’s triumph in the World Cup, there was perhaps only one destination his fate could take him to.
ILKAY GUNDOGAN (GER): Ikay Gundogan was born to Turkish parents in 1990 in Gelsenkirchen. IIkay’s grandfather used to live in Balikesir in Turkey but moved to Germany to work as a miner. Around 1979, the rest of his family, including Ilkay’s father Irfan, moved to Germany.
MICHY BATSHUAYI (BELGIUM): Given the African roots of his parents (Pino Batshuayi and Viviane Leya Iseka), the Belgian striker could have played for the Democratic Republic of Congo at international level. In fact, Michy, who was born in Brussels in 1993, was once named in Congolese national team’s preliminary list of players in 2013. But having already represented Belgium’s Under-21 side, he made it clear in 2015 that he wanted to play only for the Red Devils.