There are some footballers with surprising origins that just might shock you. You’ve likely heard about players switching their allegiances from one national team to another, right? Well, such shifts are only possible for those who meet specific eligibility criteria. Various factors determine a player’s eligibility to represent a country, with nationality being one of them. While most footballers are eligible to play for just one national team, some enjoy the luxury of having multiple options due to their roots in different countries.
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Footballers with surprising origins
This article delves into these players, exploring their family histories and shedding light on 10 footballers with surprising origins that might be unfamiliar to you.
1) Cristiano Ronaldo
He is definitely one of the greatest players of all time, and the greatest player to come out of Portugal. But did you know he actually has African origins as well? Yep. That’s right. Precisely Cape Verde origins. You see, his grandmother was actually from the Cape Verde Islands. She also lived there until the age of 16 when she moved to Portugal. By moving to Portugal, she may have just been trying to seek greener pastures. But for us football fans, that single journey to a new country played a very important part in giving us this great footballer known as Cristiano Ronaldo.
2) Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe, the young winger, was born in France and represents the French national team. But would you believe that he has roots in not just one, not two, but three African countries? Surprising, right? Mbappe’s mother is Algerian, while his father hails from Cameroon. But that’s not all—his father also has Nigerian roots. Astonishingly, Mbappe even bears a Nigerian name. His current choice to play for France is primarily due to his father’s migration in search of better opportunities.
Do you think Mbappe would have achieved the same levels of success if he hadn’t played for France?
3) Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Although he may come across as cocky and proud, this man is genuinely adored in Sweden. They’ve even dedicated a song and a statue to him. However, what most people there might not know is that he’s not entirely of Swedish descent. Indeed, he has roots in at least two other countries. His mother is Croatian, while his father is Bosnian, and they relocated to Sweden, where he was born. Unfortunately, their relationship didn’t last long as they divorced when he was just 2 years old, resulting in a somewhat challenging childhood. Nevertheless, this didn’t hinder his career, and he emerged successfully. And why wouldn’t he? After all, he is Zlatan. It would undoubtedly take more than a mere divorce to impede Zlatan from reaching his full potential.
4) David Silva
David Silva is not only admired for his footballing abilities but also for his notably calm nature. Perhaps this demeanor can be attributed to his Japanese heritage. Yes, that’s correct. David Silva is of part-Japanese descent, being just as much Japanese as he is Spanish. His mother is Japanese, while his father is Spanish. Despite choosing to represent Spain and spending his entire playing career there, who knows? He might follow in the footsteps of his former Spanish teammate Iniesta by moving to the Japanese league.
5) Paulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala has an intriguing origin story, which wouldn’t be complete without a reference to the Second World War. His paternal grandfather hailed from Poland and was residing there. However, when the war broke out and his village fell under Nazi occupation, he was compelled to flee to Argentina to rebuild his family. On the other side, Dybala’s maternal grandmother was Italian, affording him the opportunity to claim Italian citizenship. Given that he was born in Argentina, Dybala was actually eligible to represent three countries.
Despite being eligible for Poland, Italy, and Argentina, he chose to play for the country of his birth—Argentina. This decision allowed him to wear the same national colors as legends like Messi and Maradona. Nevertheless, this doesn’t signify that he has disregarded his Polish roots. In fact, he expresses a desire to return to Poland after his retirement to reconnect with his family’s heritage. Only time will tell if this aspiration comes to fruition.
6) Antoine Griezmann
He’s another player with diverse origins. Despite playing for France, neither of his parents is actually French. That’s right. His father is German, while his mother is Portuguese. However, both of them migrated to France where they eventually met.
Interestingly, Griezmann seems to have a stronger connection with his Portuguese roots. He had a desire to play for Portugal and even attempted to join their under-16 team. However, he wasn’t selected in the end. It’s safe to say he’s not losing any sleep over that rejection now. Since then, he has triumphed by winning the World Cup with France. It turned out quite well for him, wouldn’t you say?
7) Marco Asensio
Marco Asensio – His father is Spanish, while his mother was from the Netherlands, making him half-Spanish and half-Dutch, and therefore eligible to play for either country. Given his talent, both nations made efforts to secure his allegiance. In fact, when he was younger, Dutch legend Van Nistelrooy approached him. Van Nistelrooy tried to convince Asensio to play for the Netherlands. However, in the end, Asensio decided to represent Spain, his father’s country.
8) Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani was born in Uruguay and plays for their national team. Despite appearing to be a complete South American, he actually has European roots as well. In fact, he even holds an Italian passport and could have chosen to play for Italy. You might be curious about his Italian heritage. It’s straightforward: his paternal grandparents were Italian, but they migrated to Uruguay, where they had his father. Along the way, his father must have met his mother, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Deco is a player with at least three different roots. What makes Deco particularly unique is that all three countries are located on different continents. His father is Portuguese, while his mother is Brazilian. But that’s not all—his mother also has Japanese origins, giving Deco a heritage that spans three different continents. It’s not every day you encounter a player with such diverse origins. In the end, a player can only represent one country, and for Deco, he chose to play for Portugal. Considering the career he had, it’s unlikely he’s regretted that decision.
10) Trent Alexander-Arnold
This one might surprise you more than the others. Trent has American origins. But that’s not even the most astonishing piece of information here. The most surprising tidbit is that his maternal grandmother dated Sir Alex Ferguson. Yes, the same Sir Alex. And no, we’re not making it up; it was revealed in his autobiography.
Trent’s grandmother lived in Scotland, where she had a relationship with Sir Alex. However, they ended things, and later, she moved to America, where she married someone else. It was there that she gave birth to Trent’s mother. So, despite Trent being born and raised in Liverpool, he actually has a part-American heritage.
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One can’t help but wonder what would have happened if things worked out between his grandmother and Sir Alex. Imagine if Sir Alex became his grandfather. Quite a wild thought, don’t you agree?
There you have it. What are your thoughts on all of this? Are you familiar with other players who also have diverse roots? Feel free to share in the comments section.