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Wilfried Zaha: Once a Lion, now an Elephant

Few footballers in history have had the rare privilege of playing for two different national teams. Wilfried Zaha is one of the rare cases after he made the move from donning the colours of England’s Three Lions to Ivory Coast’s Elephants.



Last November Wilfried Zaha switched international allegiance by announcing he would play for the Ivory Coast, the country he left with his family as a four-year-old.

 From England to Ivory Coast

Previously, Abijdan-born Zaha had played two games for England’s national team – where he was raised since the age of four.

But because those games were friendly matches, it means by FIFA nationality laws he was eligible to switch to another country.

Zaha made his Ivory Coast debut against Sweden in a warm-up match for the Africa Cup of Nations played in Gabon at the beginning of the year.

Read: African footballers and the question of patriotism

The West African side, who were the defending champions, disappointingly crushed out in the first round with Zaha having an average outing.

Unhappy time at Old Trafford

Zaha has previously played for English giants Manchester United, but he had an unhappy time there due to lack of game time.

His fallout with United came as a shock to many. In England, Zaha had been described as the country’s finest young player when he was still a teenager.

Wilfried Zaha playing for Cardiff City against Norwich City at Cardiff City Stadium 1 February 2014. Photo: Flickr/joncandy

He was so good enough that Manchester United paid 15 million pounds to Crystal Palace, Zaha’s childhood club, for his signature in 2013.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who had signed Zaha, loaned him back to Palace and appeared not to have him in his plans.

Ferguson’s successor, David Moyes, also never seriously developed a solid relationship with Zaha.

Coach’s daughter rumour  

Why Ferguson never really explained how he made the decision to dump a player he had splashed so much money on, with Moyes the story was a controversial one, a juicy bone for tabloid reporters.

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It was reported that Zaha had fallen out of favour at United after he’d slept with the manager Moyes’ daughter, Lauren.

Zaha, who is now back at Palace, denied the rumours.

He said he’d in fact never met Lauren.

“It was either I slept with David Moyes’s daughter or I have a bad attitude. Those are the rumours that stuck with me until I left. I have had no say since then,” he said.


“As soon as anybody see me now, people think ‘Wilfried Zaha, bad attitude’. I don’t understand why.”

“There is nothing worse than not being involved”.

After an unhappy time at United, Zaha is feeling good about himself again at Palace.

He said: “It’s a great feeling,” Zaha said. “There is nothing worse than not being involved. You are sitting there thinking ‘what exactly am I? A footballer who is not playing football?’ You feel a bit worthless sitting in the stands, watching all the time. You have nothing to speak about with the players.”