Black Italian players Ogbonna & Balotelli
The EURO 2012 (short for the UEFA Euro Championship 2012), the greatest European football (soccer) competition, is taking place in Ukraine and Poland this year. Although football in Europe is one of the most culturally and racially diverse environments, racism is widespread among football fans, especially in Eastern Europe. This is a paradox but hearing racist chants or monkey like sounds each time a black player of the opposite team is touching the ball is rather common in a European football stadium. However, I will not discuss racism here.
This article will give an overview of all black players, who are playing in Ukraine and Poland for the EURO 2012. Except for England, Holland and France, there aren’t that many black players in the teams representing European countries. The reason is quiet simple. France, Holland and the UK have the highest proportion of black people among their population.
Many more blacks play in football teams all over Europe, but teams representing cities can hire players of any nationality to play for their team. Therefore many Africans play for European teams. However, this is not the case for a national team. Only nationals can be selected for the national team. This means that all black players are nationals, born and/or raised in the country they play for, and consider that country their true homeland.
Before participation there were play offs, and eventually only 20 countries were selected to compete. Belgium, my home country, was not selected. However, Belgium has a rather high average of black people in its team (5).
Of the 20 selected national teams, 8 have at least one black player. I will list these players below, per country they represent each time with a short bio if the info I could find. Much of the information comes from wikipedia. The list of countries is alphabetical, so I start with the Czech republic and close with Sweden.
Theodor Gebre Selassie (1986)
He is of Ethiopian descent. His father is from Ethiopia and came to the Czech republic as a doctor when both countries were still under communist rule. His mother is Czech. In 2011 he became the first black player to play for the Czech republic.
Simon Poulsen (1984)
He is of Nigerian origin. He currently plays for the Dutch team AZ Alkmaar.
Jores Okore (1992)
He was born in the Ivory Coast and moved to Denmark with his family at the age of 3. He currently plays for F.C. Nordsjælland in the Danish Superliga.
Glen Johnson (1984)
Born and raised in Greenwich, London. He currently pays for Liverpool.
Ashley Cole (1980)
Ashley Cole currently plays for Chelsea. According to Wikipedia Cole's father, Ron Callender, is from Barbados. His father left the family after seven years of marriage and later moved to Australia. Cole and his younger brother Matthew were brought up by their white mother Sue Cole. Cole is a distant relative of American singer Mariah Carey.
Joleon Lescott (1982)
Lescott was born and raised in Birmingham. He currently plays for Manchester City. When he was five years old, Lescott was struck by a car, suffering severe head injuries leaving scarring on his forehead.
Theo Walcott (1989)
He currently plays for Arsenal. Of Jamaican descent Walcott was born in Stanmore, London, but grew up in the little village of Compton, Berkshire. He attended Compton Church of England Primary School and The Downs School, playing football for the local village team and later for Newbury. Walcott scored more than 100 goals in his one and only season for Newbury, before leaving there for Swindon Town. He spent only six months there before leaving for Southampton after he rejected a chance to join Chelsea. Nike agreed to a sponsorship deal with Walcott when he was fourteen years old.
Ashley Young (1985)
Young currently plays for Manchester United. He was born in Stevenage, Hertfordshire to a Jamaican-born father and English mother. He has one older brother and two football-playing younger brothers, Lewis and Kyle. Young attended the John Henry Newman School in Stevenage, and played school football alongside Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, who was in the same year. His hero and "role model on and off the pitch" was Ian Wright.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (1993)
Oxlade-Chamberlain is the son of former Stoke City, Portsmouth and England international player Mark Chamberlain. His uncle, Neville Chamberlain, was also a professional footballer. He attended St John's College, Southsea, Portsmouth. The Sun revealed that Oxlade-Chamberlain nearly chose rugby over football when he was offered a trial at London Irish. Oxlade-Chamberlain played rugby as a scrum half or full back. He currently plays for Arsenal.
Jermain Defoe (1982)
Born in London, to a St. Lucian mother and Dominican father, Defoe attended St Joachim Primary School in Custom House and St Bonaventure's Catholic Comprehensive School in Forest Gate, London. He joined the Sunday league team Senrab, well known in London for producing players such as Lee Bowyer, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Ledley King, and then joined the FA National School of Excellence at Lilleshall, Shropshire, as a 14-year-old in 1997. While he was there he attended Idsall School. He currently plays for Tottenham Hotspur.
Danny Welbeck (1990)
Born in Longsight, Manchester, England, to Ghanaian parents. He currently plays for Manchester United.
Steve Mandanda (1984)
Born in Kinshasa, DRC he is a goal keeper currently plays for Olympique de Marseille and is captain of the team. Steve Mandanda has three younger brothers, all of whom are goalkeepers. He has earned the nickname "Frenchie" amongst his relatives for having chosen to play for the French national football team rather than Congo, his country of birth. He lives in Marseille.
Patrice Evra (1981)
Evra currently plays for Manchester United. He was born in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, to a Senegalese father of Guinean descent and Juliette, a Cape Verdean mother. He has a total of 25 siblings, although two are now deceased. Evra's father was a diplomat and, when Evra was 12 months old, moved to Brussels in Belgium to work at the Senegalese embassy. After over two years living in Belgium, when Evra was three, the family moved to France and settled in Les Ulis, a commune south of Paris. The family first settled in the local Bergeries neighborhood before moving to the Hautes-Plaines quarter shortly after. Evra was raised on Senegalese culture and values that quickly became "Westernized". At the age of ten, he did return to Senegal for a short period describing the return as "not a good experience" primarily because he ventured back to the country to undergo circumcision. He has not returned to the country as of 2011. Ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Evra revealed that he had suffered racial abuse from supporters of the Senegal national team for choosing to represent France internationally over his native homeland.
Evra developed an interest in football at a young age and was fascinated by the play of former Brazilian international Romário, though he never really had an idol. He also earned good grades in school. Evra is married to Sandra with whom he has a son, Lenny. He is fluent in five languages and is attempting to learn Korean in order to better communicate with South Korean teammate and friend Park Ji-Sung.
Gaël Clichy (1985)
Clichy currently plays for Manchester City. He was a member of Arsenal's famous Invincibles team before leaving the club in 2011. He was born and raised in Toulouse, in southwestern France. His mother, Jacqueline, is a medical nurse, while his father, Claude, of Martiniquais heritage, was an educator in the city. While Clichy was beginning his football career, his father often served as a part-time coach and referee. At the age of 15 while playing for Cannes, Clichy nearly died. After climbing over a metal fence while crossing a ground at the club's facility, a ring he was wearing got caught in the fence, which resulted in the skin and tissue from the fourth finger of his right hand being completely torn off. During the seven-hour operation to repair the finger, Clichy's heart stopped beating due to a problem with his lungs. It restarted after 15 seconds. The doctor who led the operation described Clichy's survival as "a miracle", while the player himself admitted that the ordeal changed his attitude towards life stating "It made me realise that life can go quick. You could leave tomorrow so you have to enjoy it to the maximum so you don't regret anything the next day. You can look forward to the future but not too far ahead".
Blaise Matuidi (1987)
He currently plays for the premier league French Team of Paris-Saint-Germain. Matuidi was born in Toulouse, Haute-Garonne to an Angolan father, Faria Rivelino, and a French mother, Élise. Rivelino emigrated to France at a young age. Matuidi has four other siblings and was raised in the Parisian suburbs of Fontenay-sous-Bois. He grew an attraction to the sport of football watching Paris Saint-Germain and became an admirer of former Paris Saint-Germain attacker Jay-Jay Okocha.
Florent Malouda (1980)
He currently plays for Chelsea. He was born in Cayenne, French Guyana and started to play as a street footballer. Malouda soon attracted the interest of scouts from French club Châteauroux and he soon moved to Paris to join the club. Despite the difficulties of living far away from his family home in French Guiana, Malouda was able to continue his studies and play professional football.
Yann M’Vila (1990)
M'Vila currently plays for Rennes. He was born in Amiens, a city in the Picardie region. His father, Jean-Elvis M'Vila, was a former football player who is originally from the Republic of the Congo. He moved to France in 1983 and played football for 13 years regularly turning out for the reserves of local club Amiens SC. His father currently resides in Cholet. He was a police officer and now works in metallurgy. Yann also has two younger sisters and an older brother. His brother, Yohan M'Vila, also plays professional football. Yohan currently plays for Ligue 2 club Dijon. Yann, himself, is married and has a son who was born when he was 18 years old. In 2010, his wife gave birth to another child.
Alou Diarra (1981)
He currently plays for the Olympique de Marseile. Diarra was born in the commune of Villepinte in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis to Malian parents. He has three younger brothers and one sister. Diarra and his siblings were raised in the neighborhood of Rose des Vents located in the nearby commune of Aulnay-sous-Bois, where his parents still reside. He is currently married and has two children.
Jérôme Boateng (1988)
According to Wikipedia, Boateng was born in Berlin. He has a German mother and a Ghanaian father. His father, Prince Boateng, had left Ghana in 1981 hoping for a break in Germany where he wanted to study administration but was frustrated by the system and the paperwork. Instead he ended up working two jobs, one as a disc jockey and the other as a waiter. His uncle, Robert Boateng is a former member of the Ghana national team.
He has one sister, Avelina, and two brothers, Kevin-Prince Boateng, a central midfielder for Milan, and George. Whilst his two brothers, Kevin-Prince and George, grew up in the poor locality of Wedding, Jerome grew up in Wilmersdorf, a wealthier, middle-class area of Berlin. In March 2011 he became father of twin girls.
In the FIFA 2010 World Cup, Jerome Boateng played for Germany against his brother, Kevin-Prince Boateng who played for Ghana. Germany won the game 1–0.
Boateng does not drink alcohol. He currently plays for Bayern Munich.
Angelo Ogbonna (1988)
Born in Cassino, Central-Southern Italy, from Nigerian descent, Ogbonna was noted by Torino scouts from the city of Turin (northern Italy). His parents immigrated from Nigeria to Italy in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino. He managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He currently plays for Torino.
Mario Balotelli (1990)
He currently plays for Manchester United. Mario Balotelli was born in Palermo, Sicily, to Ghanaian immigrants Thomas and Rose Barwuah. The family moved to Bagnolo Mella in the province of Brescia, Lombardy (Northern Italy), shortly after he was born.
Wikipedia tells us that ss an infant, he had life-threatening complications with his intestines which led to a series of operations, although his condition had improved by 1992. Mario's health problems and the family's cramped living conditions meant the Barwuahs decided to ask for the help of social services who recommended that he be fostered.
In 1993, the Barwuah family agreed to entrust the three-year-old boy to Francesco and Silvia Balotelli, with the legal move formalized by the Court of Brescia. When Mario Balotelli became famous, his biological parents asked for his return. He later accused them of "glory hunting", stating that they only wanted him back because of the prominence he had gained. According to Law 91 of 5 February 1992, Balotelli had to wait until his 18th birthday to request Italian citizenship, as the Balotellis had not adopted him, and he officially gained citizenship on 13 August 2008.
Michel Vorm (1983)
He is a goal keeper and is currently playing for Swansea City. According to Wikipedia he is renowned for his remarkable penalty saving abilities, earning him the nickname 'penalty killer'.
Gregory van der Wiel (1988)
He plays professionally for Ajax. Born in Amsterdam to a father from Curaçao and a white Dutch mother, he is a product of the renowned Ajax youth system, who plays an attacking right back and is known for his speedy runs down the flank. In 2010, Van der Wiel was awarded the Johan Cruyff Award for "Young Player of the Year" in the Netherlands.
Wilfred Bouma (1978)
Born and raised in North-Brabant (southern part of the Netherlands) he currently plays for PSV Eindhoven. I'm not sure if he is of black descent, I didn't find anything about his ethnic origins. He definitely looks mixed-race to me.
Jetro Willems (1994)
Born in Rotterdam and of Antillean descent, he plays for PSV Eindhoven
Nigel de Jong (1984)
Born and raised in Amsterdam. He currently plays for Manchester City. He joined the Ajax youth academy as a youngster and worked his way through the ranks to make the first team at age 17. Two years later, he made his international debut and won a 2010 World Cup runner-up medal.
De Jong is married to Winonah, with whom he has two children. His father is former Dutch international Jerry de Jong, who was of Surinamese descent.
Luciano Narsingh (1990)
Strictly speaking he's not of black African descent, although partly yes. According to Wiki he is of Indian, Telugu and Creole descent from Suriname. He was born and raised in Amsterdam and he currently plays for Dutch club SC Heerenveen. His older brother, Furdjel Narsingh also plays professional football. Together they played in the AFC Ajax youth academy for several years.
Rolando Jorge Pires da Fonseca, simply Rolando, is a Cape Verdean-born Portuguese footballer who plays for F.C. Porto as a central defender. Although born in Cape Verde, Rolando moved to Portugal at age of 14 and became a naturalized citizen in 2006.
Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, commonly known as Nani, is a Portuguese footballer currently playing as a winger for English club Manchester United. Nani was born in Cape Verde and emigrated to Europe with his family at an early age. He was raised in Portugal.
Silvestre Varela (1985)
Born and raised in Portugal, Varela currently plays for FC Porto.
Martin Olsson (1988)
He currently plays for the Blackbrun Rovers in the English Premier League. Olsson was born in Gävle, Sweden. He has a twin brother, Marcus, who also plays for Blackburn Rovers. They are born to a Swedish father and a Kenyan mother.