If you’ve taken even the slightest interest in Crystal Palace FC over the last few years you will know that Wilfried Zaha’s decision to represent his native Ivory Coast rather than England has generated a huge amount of interest in both the UK and Africa.
With the 25-year-old travelling back to his homeland for the first time in 20 years for the country’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Morocco, Chris Grierson and James Smith went along for the ride, creating an absolutely superb 11-minute mini-documentary about the winger’s emotional journey home.
Whilst the game itself ended in disappointment for Wilfried and the Elephants, it’s clear from watching the video that his decision is one which means a huge amount to his family and the population of the Ivory Coast in general. Whether you take notice of the greeting Wilf got when landing at the airport or the depth of emotion his uncle displays when talking about his return, it’s immediately clear that he made the right choice when switching his international allegiance away from the Three Lions.
The story Wilf himself tells about his father is likely to bring a smile to your face, highlighting what a career in professional football has brought to them as a family. Whilst everyone can talk of the sacrifices people have made before turning pro, few will speak with the openness and emotion that Zaha conjures in the interview above. Aside from being a supremely talented footballer, he’s just a thoroughly likeable bloke and that shines through in this documentary as clearly as ever before.
Although the Ivory Coast missed out on a place at the World Cup, you can be sure that Wilf will play a pivotal role in their international future for the rest of his time as a player, with the coaching set-up likely to build the team around him in much the same way as they did with Didier Drogba in the noughties. Given that level of trust and adulation, the wide man should go from strength to strength in an orange shirt, being reminded every time he steps across the white line, of the deep family ties that brought him home.