Former African player of the year Freddie Kanoute says he has no regrets choosing Mali when he had the opportunity to play for France.
The player, who is 38 years of age now, has played for top clubs in the Europe including West Ham,Tottenham and Sevilla. He is now based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) even though he was born in France. Kanoute represented the French team up until the Under 21 level in 1990 due to his great football skills but decided, rather surprisingly, to return to Africa to play for Mali.
However, the only sense in his decision was because of competition. He was left out of the team that played at the Euro 2000, following their 1998 World Cup success. The likes of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, former Juventus player David Trezeguet and former PSG, Real Madrid, Chelsea and West Ham player Nicholas Anelka were chosen ahead of him. When apex football body FIFA changed the rules allowing players to play for their Parent’s country of birth, the talented player returned to his African home to lead the team.
After many years, the player told Gulf News: “I can’t tell you how many times I would have been in the starting line-up, but I had the ability to play for France. I honestly don’t regret choosing to play for Mali though as I saw the bigger picture. I have always been a fan of African football and I wanted to bring something back to Mali and participate in the development of their football.”
The player added that the way he was received and the extent at which he affected the country, he might never have reached playing for France. He admitted that playing for France would have given him more exposure and possibly moving on to play for bigger clubs but that choosing the African side was the best decision for him.
He added that he missed not winning anything on the international stage but he was happy with his career overall. Kanoute scored 23 goals in 39 games for Mali and led them to the semi final at the African Cup of Nations in 2004.