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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang explains decision to represent Gabon, turn down France and Spain

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Arsenal’s record signing rejected chances to play for Spain and France in favor of Gabon

Olympics Day 5 - Men's Football - Korea Republic v Gabon Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Unlike many of Arsenal’s first-team players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not on international duty this week preparing for this summer’s World Cup. Aubameyang represents Gabon, a tiny African country ranked 95th in the latest FIFA rankings, despite having the opportunity to play for France or Spain years ago. Aubameyang was born in France to a Spanish mother, making him eligible to represent either country. Aubameyang actually made one appearance for the France U-21 team in 2009 before switching to Gabon a few years later. Given his success at Borussia Dortmund the last few years, it’s highly likely he could have been a key player for either France or Spain ahead of this World Cup.

Yet, as Arsenal’s club-record signing explained in a recent interview with arsenal.com, the decision to suit up for Gabon was an easy one: “For me, the choice was clear. I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps,” said Aubameyang. “I realized very quickly that in my heart I wanted to emulate my father.”

Aubameyang’s father, also named Pierre, made 80 appearances for Gabon and served as captain during a long international career that spanned thirteen years in the 80’s and 90’s. The senior Aubameyang spent the majority of his club career playing in France’s top two leagues, and is currently a scout for AC Milan, where his son began his senior career.

This is not the first time Aubameyang has discussed the close bond he shares with his father. In an interview with CNN last year, Aubameyang said,

“He taught me so many things about this country as captain of the national team. I lived all the time in France but it’s like I was born in Gabon. “For me, this choice was easy because my father was my first favorite player. I was in the stadium watching him for the first time when I was maybe three years old, and straight away I knew I wanted to do it like him. That’s it.

While the Gabonese national team has never qualified for the World Cup or even made it past the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations, it’s clear Aubameyang, the joint all-time top-scorer for Gabon and current captain, remains immensely proud to play for the same team as his father. Although we may never see Aubameyang play at the highest levels of international soccer, it’s nice learning more about him and his connection to his father.