10 Foreign-Based Players Who Could Have Featured in AFCON 


The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a prestigious tournament that showcases the best football talent from the continent. Over the years, several players of African descent have made significant impacts on the international stage, representing countries they are eligible for based on their heritage.

However, there are some notable names who could have been eligible to play at AFCON but ultimately chose a different path. Here, we explore 10 such players who could have been eligible to play at the African Cup of Nations based on their familial ties and heritage.

Bukayo Saka

The 22-year-old English winger has emerged as a key player for Gareth Southgate’s England squad. Despite being born in London, Bukayo Saka could have been a candidate for the Nigeria national team due to his Nigerian descent. His parents, who are of Nigerian origin, gave him a Yoruba name, which translates to “Add to happiness.”

Curtis Jones

Another talented player with Nigerian parentage is Curtis Jones, who currently plies his trade at Liverpool. At 23 years old, Jones possesses the skill and versatility that could have boosted Nigeria’s midfield in the African Cup of Nations.

William Saliba

The French defender, currently with Arsenal, has familial ties to Cameroon through his mother. Despite representing France at the international level, Saliba could have been a defensive stalwart for the Cameroon national team in the AFCON.

Ibrahima Konaté

Like Saliba, Ibrahima Konaté is a French footballer born to African parents. With Malian heritage, Konaté could have provided strength and solidity to Mali’s defense in the African Cup of Nations.

Kylian Mbappé

Kylian Mbappe, one of the most electrifying talents in world football, has dual eligibility due to his parents’ origins. With a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother, Mbappe could have been a marquee player for either nation in the African Cup of Nations.

Nico Williams

While his brother, Inaki Williams, chose Ghana over Spain, Nico Williams opted to represent Spain internationally. Born in Spain, Nico had the option to play for Ghana due to his heritage but decided otherwise.

Alphonso Davies

Born in Ghana to Liberian refugee parents, Davies could have opted to play for either Ghana or Liberia at the African Cup of Nations. However, he chose to represent Canada, where he has enjoyed considerable success. His speed and skill could have been a game-changer for either Ghana or Liberia in the AFCON.

Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku, the prolific Belgian striker, could have featured in AFCON, representing the Democratic Republic of Congo. Born to Congolese parents in Belgium, Lukaku’s father, Roger Lukaku, represented Zaire internationally. However, Romelu chose to represent Belgium, where he is currently their all-time leading goal scorer.

Karim Benzema

Before representing France, Karim Benzema was courted by the Algerian Football Federation. With Algerian parents, Benzema had the option to represent Algeria in the African Cup of Nations but ultimately chose to pursue his international career with France.

Imagine him alongside Riyad Mahrez, potentially creating a dream attacking duo for the Fennecs, capable of unlocking even the tightest AFCON defenses.

Cristiano Ronaldo

While Cristiano Ronaldo has achieved legendary status with Portugal, he could have been eligible to play for Cape Verde through his grandmother. His African heritage from Cape Verde adds an intriguing dimension to his illustrious career, and he could have been a symbol of pride for Cape Verdeans, potentially elevating their AFCON standings.

These 10 players represent a fraction of the talent pool that could have graced Africa’s most prestigious football competition. While they have excelled at representing other nations, their heritage and familial connections could have led them to don the colors of various African countries in this prestigious tournament.

Ultimately, their choices reflect the complexity of identity, allegiance, and opportunity in the world of international football.

Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann

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