According to Ismail Jakobs, it was almost inevitable that he would now be part of the Senegal side that face England in the World Cup round of 16. In any case, he published a photo on his Instagram channel that shows him as a child in a 1. FC Köln jersey at a youth soccer game, with Doha’s Aspire Tower in the background. Jakobs wrote: “God’s Plan”, God’s plan.
By earthly standards, Jakobs, who was born in Cologne in 1999 as the son of a German mother and a Senegalese father, was anything but planned when it came to this World Cup. It was characterized by twists and turns that were difficult to predict. Just like some players in this tournament.
In June 2021 Jakobs became European champion with the German U21. In July 2021, the only reason he did not play for Germany at the Olympics was because he moved to AS Monaco in France almost at the same time after 43 Bundesliga games for FC. It was not until September 2022 that he appeared in two friendlies for Senegal for the first time. And on the day of Senegal’s first World Cup game in Qatar, Jakobs’ association change had not been confirmed by Fifa. A few hours before the game against the Netherlands kicked off, he was not eligible to play. That’s why Jakobs wasn’t in the starting XI when it was 2-0.
More than 130 footballers are playing for countries in which they were not born at the World Cup in Qatar. Some of them only made their debut for their new association in the past few months. This is not new, in 2010 Kevin-Prince Boateng played for Ghana for the first time shortly before the World Cup. However, this time, perhaps due to the unusual date of the tournament with all its imponderables, there are a number of examples.
Apparently several Bundesliga clubs are interested in loaning Jakobs from Monaco
Abdelhamid Sabiri, former Germany U21 international, has played for Morocco since September. Bryan Mbeumo, once in action for France’s juniors, has recently joined Cameroon. In the 3-2 win against South Korea, Ghana started with four footballers who were not yet Ghana internationals in the summer: Saris Abdul Samed and Mohammed Salisu, as well as Tariq Lamptey, who has made 20 appearances for England youth national teams, and Iñaki Williams, who has already made a friendly appearance for Spain A-Elf denied.
Otto Addo, who is a talent manager at Borussia Dortmund in his main job and has been Ghana’s head coach since February, had to moderate a small debate on the subject: “It can be dangerous to bring in new players,” he said. “Especially when the players who were there before have achieved something very good. There is a group dynamic that I don’t want to disturb.” But he assured: The newcomers would be well received. The association was specifically looking for players with Ghanaian roots.
In the case of Senegal, there has indeed been a major success in the recent past: the team, then led by the now injured Sadio Mané, won the African Cup of Nations earlier in the year. Ismail Jakobs probably didn’t think about being there at the time. The contact with the association, it is said, only became more intensive in the preparation for the World Cup. For Senegal, the need for his position was obvious: Saliou Ciss, left-back who won the Africa Cup of Nations, is now without a club. And last but not least, Jakobs should have been tempted by the prospect of participating in the tournament.
As far as his eligibility to play was concerned, there were apparently a few pitfalls. For example, Jakobs was a U21 national player in his nine appearances for Germany, so changing associations was possible. However, he was already older than 21 at the U21 European Championship in summer 2021. According to reports, it took some time before the correct forms for such cases were signed. Two hours before the game against the Netherlands, coach Aliou Cissé received the good news from the team manager.
Apparently he had no settling-in difficulties, at least since the second World Cup game he has been doing extremely well. In the victories against Qatar and Ecuador he played from the start and prepared a goal. Apparently several Bundesliga clubs are interested in loaning him out from Monaco, where he is not a regular. But first he has other plans. After Tuesday’s victory against Ecuador, which was decisive for progression, he said: “We want to be world champions.”