Friday, August 3, 2007

Africans in French Football

African players are in vogue in France, as over 90 Africans call the French domestic league home.

To be precise, 97 Africans play in France's Ligue 1, Many are hoping to emulate the likes of Cheslea's Ivorian striker Didier Drogba and his Ghanaian team-mate Michael Essien, who used the league as a stepping-stone to riches in the English Premiership.

Each of the 20 clubs in the country's top league have at least two Africans on their books as they vie for Le Championnat, the league title.

Champions Lyon, who have won 6 straight French titles, signed Ivorian striker Kadar Keita and Algeria defender Nadir Belhadj to strengthen the squad following the departure of four key players including Florent Malouda to Chelsea.

Lyon begin their title defence on Sunday when they take on Auxerre but if there is any team to prevent them from grabbing their seventh successive title then it is former European champions Olympique Marseille.

Marseille went on a pre-season shopping spree to bolster their squad after buying six players including skilful Algerian playmaker Karim Ziani from rivals Sochaux.

They also promoted 17-year-old Andre 'Dede' Ayew (left), son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele, from their youth team.

"We have had an excellent preparation and that is why I think that we can challenge Lyon for the title," Dede told BBC Sport.

"We have a good mix of experienced and young players who can carry us through this long season."

Marseille must be able to cope with the possible absence of all nine of their African players in mid season when the African Cup of Nations starts in January.

It will be interesting to find out how newly-promoted Metz finish on the table as they are the club with the highest number of Africans in their squad.

The possible absence of their ten players during the Nations Cup in Ghana is expected to weigh heavily on their survival chances.

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