Sport

An African family rivalry continues at Euro 2016

2016-06-19 15:00

A match-up between Germany and Belgium at the Euros could see two players continue a family rivalry that dates back 24 years to the Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal.

In 1992, striker Souleyman Sané scored one of the goals for the hosts in a 3-0 win over Kenya. His counterpart in the Harambee Stars side, Mike Okoth, failed to find the net as the east Africans were knocked out in the group stage.

Fast-forward to 2016 and their sons are on track for another meeting at a continental finals – albeit at the Euros.

Leroy Sané, 20, who was born in Germany during his father’s lengthy stint in Europe, has opted to play for Die Mannschaft, while 21-year-old Origi was born in Belgium when his father was playing in that country.

The Liverpool striker plays his international football for Les Diables Rouges, who are currently ranked second in the world.

The father of two of Origi’s team-mates, Jordan and Romelu Lukaku, also played at the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

In fact, Menama Lukaku was only denied a clash against Sané at the 1994 finals because Senegal and the then Zaire were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by the two finalists, Zambia and Nigeria, respectively.

Okoth said in an interview with City Press that it had always been his son’s choice to play for Belgium.

“When you go to the national team in Kenya, the system is totally different. So for him to adapt to that system is a little bit difficult, because you can say it is not as properly organised as in Europe.

“So to make that switch at an early age would have been very difficult.”

Okoth remembers playing against Sané in Senegal.

“He was incredibly fast and liked to take on defenders. I can see his son is like that too.”

Like the Kenyan legend, Sané has played an important role in his son’s career.

“From an early age on, we could see that he had a lot of talent and we said that if he didn’t mess it up, if he takes his career seriously, he could make it,” said the former Senegalese international, with Leroy adding that his father had always been there for him.

Okoth, who won a Belgian title, as well as the cup with Genk, accepts that the two youngsters have opted to play their international football for a European team.

“The world is changing continuously, so when I decided to come here, it was to make my life better than it was in Kenya, and so my children have integrated here and are part of a different setup in a different country.”

And Sané and Origi are not the only talents Africa has lost: 43 players at the Euros could have been playing at the Africa Cup of Nations had they not thrown in their lot with a European country.

November 10 2019