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Kanoute: Why I Chose Mali Over France

Former Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute has explained why he decided to represent Mali on the international stage despite being in the France set-up.

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The 42-year-old France-born striker played for the West African country 39 times between 2004 and 2010, finding the back of the net on 23 occasions, including four times at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.

Kanoute, however, was in and around the Les Bleus set-up when he chose to play for Mali, telling Soccer Laduma in an exclusive interview that he always was determined to give something back to the African country.

"Yeah, this is interesting because this is a question I get over and over, and people might be right to think that it's because maybe I wasn't being picked for France, but actually I was in the team for France when I decided to leave," he said.

"I was in the pre-selection of 30 players. I was never as close as that when I actually decided to go join Mali, and to be honest, I've always been a fan of African football since I was a little kid. I always thought, 'Oh, someday I could play for Mali'.

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"Obviously, I played at youth level, at U21 level for France, but I remember Mali was already behind me and they were already looking at me for a long time, but obviously it was impossible because of my earlier selections with France until 2004, which coincides with my time at Spurs.

"Then the rule changed! As long as you hadn't played in the first team of your country, you can still choose to play for another country of which you have the nationality. It wasn't an easy decision because, as I said, I was picked in the France first team, but at the end of the day, I always wanted to play for Mali and I wanted to choose something that lasts.

"I always wanted to give something back to Mali. You know, things are always going in one direction so I felt that it was time for the likes of me and other kids coming from immigration to give back to their country of origin, and that's why I followed my heart, and also what I wanted to do, I wanted to invest in Mali.

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"Since then, I've been able to do a lot of things in Mali, and if I hadn't played for the national team, it would have been more difficult, so I certainly don't regret my choice."

Read the full interview with the LaLiga ambassador in the latest edition of the Soccer Laduma!

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