Lyon star Nabil Fekir announces decision to play for France, offends everyone
Lyon’s in-demand forward Nabil Fekir has confirmed that he has pledged his international future to France and not Algeria.
Fekir’s international allegiance has been a controversial matter but the 21-year-old, born in France to a family of Algerian origin, has now declared for Les Bleus.
“Yes, I confirm, France are my choice”, Fekir told L’Equipe.
“I spoke with Didier Deschamps and he was very convincing. He said that he was counting on me and that I was an important player for him.
“This is a significant year as we are close to Euro 2016 [in France] and I really want to play in that tournament. I am French of Algerian origin and I feel it was in my interest to opt for France.”
Fekir could be named in the France squad on March 19 for the games against Denmark and Brazil.
WHAT’S THE FUSS ALL ABOUT?
Alexandre Lacazette has been the breakthrough star for Lyon this season, scoring 23 goals to lead the top scorers’ chart by a full seven, but Fekir comes a close second after impressing with his brilliant technique and dribbling.
France's defender Layvin Kurzawa (L) celebrates with his teammate midfielder Nabil Fekir AFP
SO WHY ARE ALGERIA ANNOYED?
Fekir played for France Under-21s in a European Championship play-off in October but Algeria had been hoping that the forward would declare for them in a rare example of a supremely talented player picking the country of his heritage rather than France.
And who gave them that idea? The Fekir family. The player’s father said prior to his debut for France U21 that his son had chosen to play for Algeria: “My son Nabil has made his decision, he will only play for the Algerian team. He chose his country out of conviction and he will be very proud to make his debut.”
But things changed. Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff had hoped to include Fekir in his squad for upcoming games against Qatar and Oman but the player soon started making rather non-committal noises, telling L’Equipe in February: "The decision to choose between Algeria and France will be very difficult. I am going to weigh up the pros and cons, and I'll soon announce my final decision. I know both of them could call me up next month. I'll try to take my decision before March. It's not easy, that's for sure. I'm going to speak to my dad, and we'll see, even if I have already talked to him about it."
Fekir then went on record with the Lyon website in March to again state he had made no decision – a stance that was contradicted by Algeria, who accused his club of influencing the young star to opt for France: "We called up Nabil Fekir because he called Christian Gourcuff to tell him he had chosen to wear the Algeria shirt," FAF president Mohamed Raouraoua said. "We were surprised by the official statement published on the club's website and it proves the club played a part in this affair."
Nabil Fekir celebrates a goal for LyonAFP
AND WHAT WERE FRANCE UP TO ALL THIS TIME?
Coach Didier Deschamps was very keen to keep his distance from the controversy, stating clearly that he did not want to make a political move against Algeria. When asked if Fekir would be in his squad for the games against Brazil and Denmark, he said in February: "I can't say right now. He's playing a lot, he's performing well. He has a different style. It's promising. I'm following him, as I am other youngsters. I don't do politics. If I take Nabil Fekir, it'll be because I am convinced of his qualities. I'm not going to pick him to stop him playing elsewhere. If both nations call him up, he'll have to choose. He has the liberty to do that. If I don't call him up, he'll go elsewhere. But even if I call him up, he could still go elsewhere. It'll be his choice."
SO WHY ARE FRANCE ANNOYED TODAY?
Deschamps is said to be angry at the particulars of Fekir’s statement, especially the line where the player reveals he held talks with the coach and that Deschamps was “very convincing”. Discussions between the two were supposed to be secret and Deschamps’ people are known to be unhappy with how the information has been brought into the public domain.
Nabil Fekir in action for LyonAFP
ANYTHING ELSE TO MENTION?
Just another portion of the statement that has raised a few eyebrows: “I am French of Algerian origin and I feel it was in my interest to opt for France.” In my interest. Perhaps indicating this was a decision made from the head rather than the heart.
AND WHAT DO EUROSPORT'S FRENCH JOURNALISTS MAKE OF THE NEWS?
Maxime Dupuis: "From the beginning to the end, it has been a mess. He shouldn’t have spoken and should have let Deschamps call him, like 99% of footballers. As Lyon coach Hubert Fournier said this week: 'He should better speak on the pitch and with his feet'. Fekir conducted an interview a few weeks ago, saying that he would choose between France and Algeria before the end of March. His father wanted him to choose Algeria. What he did during this interview was to give the impression that he tried to force Deschamps to call him, putting pressure on the national coach. And saying that France was in his interest? It's a quote he may regret in a few years."