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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Mavuba: born without a nation
By James Copnall
BBC Sport, Abidjan

I have never sought to know the story of that [ocean] crossing
Rio-Antonio Mavuba

New France international Rio-Antonio Mavuba has an unusual African background.

The Bordeaux midfielder, who made his debut for France in August, has no country of birth.

Mavuba, son of former Zaire international Ricky Mavuba Ndokia Ndombe - who featured at the 1974 World Cup finals - was born on a boat, off the coast of Angola, on 16 March 1984.

Mavuba's mother was Angolan, and both parents were fleeing the ravages of the Angolan civil war.

But the young player is not too keen to relive the unique tale.

"It just says 'born-at-sea' in my passport," Mavuba explained.

"As far as the rest is concerned, I never talk about it.

"In fact, I have never sought to know the story of that crossing," the 20-year-old said.

Fortunately for Mavuba, he and his family were given the status of political refugees in France.

Tragically for Rio-Antonio, both parents died before he turned 14.

He admits he threw himself into football to get over the tragedy and six years later, he was a regular for Bordeaux.

Incredibly, when Mavuba made his competitive debut for Les Bleus on Saturday, it was only his 32nd match at senior level.

DR Congo manager Claude LeRoy made an earlier effort to recruit the boat child.

Mavuba politely but firmly turned down the invitation.

"I grew up in France, and I am French," he said.

"If Claude LeRoy invites me to go and watch a Congo game I would go happily, but I will play for France from now on."



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