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Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 11:12 UK

Mali, France set for tug-of-war

Sambou Yatabare
Yatabare is a promising striker of Malian descent

Mali and France seem to be on a collision course over the services of French-born forward Sambou Yatabare.

Yatabare has been included in France's under-21 squad, just a week after Mali named him in their squad for two World Cup qualifiers in June.

It reflects the demand on an up-and-coming new generation of Europe-born talent of African descent.

Children born to immigrants are becoming the bedrock of many African sides, notably former French colonies.

More and more African countries are looking to Europe for ready-made international-class talent, creating a tug of the heart strings.

Yatabare could yet play for Mali's senior side in the future as long as he applies to FIFA for a nationality switch before his 21st birthday.

Mali picked him after a recent visit to Europe by coach Stephen Keshi.

While he thought he had been successful in convincing Yatabare, his overtures to another French under-21 international, who has also been selected for the annual Toulon tournament from June 3-12, proved inconclusive.

Toulouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko told the Mali coach he needed time to consider playing either for Mali or France.

Keshi also visited Aly Cissokho, the French-born left back who impressed in this season's UEFA Champions League for Portugal's Porto.

He hoped to persuade him to commit to a potential international career with Mali.

"But he told me that he was not Malian," Keshi told reporters on his return.

For years, talented players have struggled over the choice with Africa winning a few skirmishes but also losing out on other eligible talent.

One example of success for Africa is teenage striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who in February played for France at under-21 level in a friendly match and six weeks later was scoring for Gabon on his debut in a World Cup qualifier.

Aubameyang is a special case given his father and elder brother also played for Gabon but it took more than a year of persuasion before he decided his international future was African rather than with the country of his birth.

But others, like Arsenal's Bakary Sagna, Lassana Diarra of Real Madrid and Manchester United's Danny Welbeck have slipped from the continent's grasp.

Welbeck's parents hail from Ghana, who have battled for two years to persuade him to play for them.

But it is increasingly likely the 18-year-old is destined for an England cap.

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see also
Kanoute makes Mali debut
16 Jan 04 |  African
Mali face Samassa disappointment
22 May 09 |  African
Mali thump Sudan in Bamako
23 Jun 08 |  African
Keshi hopes for Sissoko return
11 Mar 09 |  African

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