Cameroonian basketball star granted French citizenship
Cameroonian basketball star Joel Embiid has been granted citizenship by France, clearing the path for him to play internationally for the Europeans.
The Philadelphia 76ers centre, who rejected a call-up to represent Cameroon at the 2017 AfroBasket championship, first opened the door to a nationality switch between 2016 and 2018.
The 28-year-old has had his naturalisation approved by the French government two months after the general manager of France’s national team, Boris Diaw, revealed Embiid had commenced his bid to obtain citizenship.
He benefited from a proposal by the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to allow citizenship to be conferred on any French-speaking alien who “contributes by his eminent deeds to the influence of France”.
Recovering from thumb, finger and facial injuries after helping the Sixers to the NBA Eastern Conference play-off semi-finals, Embiid – who has no direct relationship with France – will be hoping to represent Les Bleus at the 2023 World Cup and Paris 2024 Olympics.
Embiid has never played in an official competition for Cameroon, making him eligible for another country, and the rules of basketball’s world governing body Fiba allow each team to have one naturalised player in its squad.
France’s gain is Cameroon’s loss
Born in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde in 1994, Embiid spent his childhood in the Central African nation before moving to the United States with his family aged 15.
Yet the Sixers star has always had a special bond with France, where he spent holidays as a child and where he still has relatives living.
Embiid said he was “a fan of France in general” and willing to spend more time there in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe in 2018.
He held discussions with the French Basketball Federation four years ago, but gave up the idea of switching nationality to focus on his NBA career.
However, he and his camp revived the conversation with France earlier this year.
Cameroon’s basketball body, Fecabasket, told BBC Sport Africa back in May it would like Embiid to play for them, but admitted it could not prevent him appearing for France if Fiba regulations allow him to.
Embiid’s arrival would be a massive asset for the French team, who took bronze at the past two World Cups and silver at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
He has just had his best season in the NBA – becoming the first non-American to finish as best points scorer with an average of 30.6 points per game.
Embiid also ended the campaign on the MVP podium for the second year in a row, ultimately beaten to the top prize by Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic.