From brain-drain to talent-drain


Euro 2024 features 10 players of Ghanaian descent and 58 players with African roots

By Ernest Bako WUBONTO

The term ‘brain-drain’ is used for the exodus of a country’s professionals or intellectuals to foreign lands, mainly for greener pastures. These professionals include teachers, lecturers, lawyers, doctors, nurses and engineers.

The brain-drain in Ghana and Africa remains one of the most controversial areas of economic development and socio-political debate.

A phenomenon that has seen a significant rise in recent times in this regard that seems not talked about is the talent-drain in the area of sports. Often seen as a good gesture as talents in this area move to developed countries in Europe and America to further develop their talent to the optimal level for their home countries, now the best are switching nationality.

It is always joy in families, communities and the whole society in many African countries whenever a native of the land makes a breakthrough into any of the top clubs in major European leagues for many reasons.

Key among the positive reasons for these joyous moods, just to mention a few, are excitement that they will get to watch their own on the big screens week in and week out; the individual’s financial breakthrough that will impact their family through remittances; the community via charity projects; worldwide recognition for the nation of origin, putting that nation on the international map with honours or awards in case of any; and representing their nation in international competitions.

However, the rate at which the crème de la crème of talent from the continent is converting nationality to represent European countries at the national level is heartbreaking for many and remains a major arguing point as to why Africa is yet to win the World Cup at  senior national team level, even though the story is different at the youth level.

The UEFA European Championship, commonly known as the Euros, is underway in Germany with all eyes fixated on this competition – one of the most watched football tournaments globally.

Ghana has lost 10 top players to prominent powerhouse countries in the ongoing Euro24 tournament. These are just a few of the larger pool of players whose allegiance the nation has failed to secure and ensure they represent the motherland in the football industry on the international stage.

These top talent drains include Jérémy Doku-Belgium, Nico Williams-Spain, Kobbie Mainoo-England, Kwadwo Antwi Duah-Switzerland, Kevin Danso-Austria and Benjamin Henrichs-Germany,

The others are Memphis Depay, Jeremie Frimpong, Cody Gakpo and Brian Brobbey – all representing the Netherlands, with all playing critical roles in helping the team secure a spot in the competition’s next round.

Nico Williams, the Athletic Bilbao star who decided to represent Spain and was named ‘man of the match’ in their game against Italy, interestingly has his senior brother, Inaki Williams, representing Ghana. Nico debuted for Spain in 2022 and participated in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Inaki Williams has been a key player in the Black Stars since he debuted a few years ago, and this intensifies the argument about the crucial role his brother would have played if both of them were to appear side-by-side for the Ghana national team just as they do in La Liga.

The Manchester City winger Doku is another exciting talent to watch in the competition, dazzling defenders anytime he gets hold of the ball for the Belgium side. His pace and dribbling skills make him a threat on the wing, something the Black Stars could capitalise on as they aim to secure a spot at the next FIFA World Cup to be hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Africa has lost 58 top talents to various countries in the ongoing tournament. With the competition still at the group stage level, most of these African-descent players have shown their worth in scoring goals, providing assists and securing ‘player of the match’ honours in some of the games.

Some of the other top talents with roots in the continent include highly shortlisted  Ballon d’Or contenders like Kylian Mbappe of Cameroon and Algeria ancestry-France;  Lamine Yamal, Morocco-Spain; Romelu Lukaku of DR Cong -Belgium; Bukayo Saka of Nigeria-England; and Antonio Rudiger of Sierra Leone-Germany.

While it remains a great aspiration for football talents on the continent to participate in the best club-level leagues of Europe and the Americas – and the economic benefits of such achievements cannot be overemphasised – it is important to address the talent-drain before Africa loses the best of its talent completely.

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