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Belgium's African roots

  • Published at 10:54 pm July 9th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:54 am July 10th, 2018
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Almost half of Belgium’s (47.8 %) players in the World Cup squad are of African origin, while their share in the country’s population is 12.1%

Belgium, with a small population of only 11m is loaded with talented and hard-working sons of first-generation migrants from Congo, Morocco, Burundi, Mali and beyond. Belgium came into the tournament as the world’s No 3 team. Friday, the Belgians advanced to the semifinal with a 2-1 victory over Brazil, and will play France Tuesday.

Belgium’s transformation is the most talked-about revitalisation programme in the game, reports The Washington Post. A grass-roots transformation began in the early 2000s, with an emphasis on technical skills and nationwide youth development. This coincided with a national programme to use football to help integrate recent migrants. It proved to be a potent mix, and the so-called “golden generation” of Belgian players born of that era are playing starring roles in top-flight European leagues.

The Belgian national team have not only become a multicultural symbol, much like Les Bleus of the late 1990s, but they have become a powerful unifying force in a famously fractious country.

The Red Devils might not have been in this stage of the World Cup, if not for their key players of African origin like Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Alex Witsel.

Almost half of Belgium’s (47.8 %) players in the World Cup squad are of African origin, while their share in the country’s population is 12.1% (source: newsclick.in). Congo was a Belgian colony until 1960 and four players from Belgium's WC squad are of Congolese origin including Lukaku and Kompany.

Belgium players with migrant parents

Romelu Lukaku (striker): Born in Antwerp to Congolese parents. Has been playing for Manchester United since 2017.

Vincent Kompany (defender): Born to Congolese father and Belgian mother. Has been playing for Manchester City since 2008.

Mousa Dembele (midfielder): Born in Antwerp to Malian father and Belgian mother. His father had migrated to Europe in the late 1970s. Has been playing for Tottenham Hotspur since 2012.

Marouane Fellaini (midfielder): Born to Moroccan parents and raised in Brussels. Has been playing for United since 2013.

Dedryck Boyata (defender): Born to a Congolese father. Has been playing for Celtic since 2015.

Alex Witsel (midfielder) : Born to a French Caribbean father and Belgian mother and was brought up in Liege, Belgium. Has been playing for Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian since 2017.

Youri Tielemans (midfielder): Born in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, to Flemish father and Congolese parents. Plays for Monaco.

Michy Batshuayi (striker): Born in Brussels to Congolese parents. Has been playing for Chelsea since 2016.

Adnan Januzaj (striker): Born in Brussels to Albanian parents of Kosovar heritage. Has been playing for Real Sociedad since 2017.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (midfielder): Born in Vilvoorde to a Portuguese father and Spanish mother. Plays for Chinese club Dalian Yifang.