More than 40 players, many of them key starters on English Premier League clubs, have left or are about to leave for final African Nations Cup preparations.
French soccer has for years faced huge defections every other winter, but this winter has seen the largest number of call-ups yet from English clubs.
The success of Africans such as Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast) at leader Arsenal and Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) and Michael Essien (Ghana) at Chelsea has prompted EPL clubs to send scouts searching across Europe for younger Africans. Among the top scorers in the EPL this year are Arsenal'sEmmanuel Adebayor(Togo), second with 12 goals, and Portsmouth's Benjamin Mwaruwari(Zimbabwe), tied for third with 10.
Two years ago, Ivory Coast's Elephants only had three EPL players -- Toure, Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue -- on their roster when they finished second to Egypt at the African Nations Cup. Both Ivory Coast has seven EPL players expected to play at the 2008 African Nations Cup.
Nigeria has the most with eight EPL players on its 23-player roster. Senegal has six EPL players, while host Ghana should have five English-based players on its squad.
Of the title contenders, Arsenal and Chelsea will again be hard hit.
Arsenal's Toure and Eboue have already played their final EPL game before joining Ivory Coast. Chelsea will be without Drogba and Ivorian teammate Salomon Kalou, Essien and Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel.
All but for Premier League should have representatives in Ghana.
The EPL's African contingent also includes players who represent France, notably Congo-born Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Senegalese-born Patrice Evra (Manchester United) and Ivorian native Olivier Kapo (Birmingham). Four of the eight Frenchmen Arsenal has in its first team are the sons of African immigrants: Bakari Sagna, Vassiriki Abou Diaby, Lassana Diarra and Armand Traore.
2008 AFRICAN NATIONS CUP CALLUPS
Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast), Alexandre Song (Cameroon).
Richard Kingson (Ghana), Mehdi Nafti (Tunisia), Radhi Jaidi (Tunisia).
Aaron Mokoena (South Africa).
El-Hadji Diouf (Senegal), Abdoulaye Meite (Ivory Coast).
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Saloman Kalou (Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Ghana).
Joseph Yobo (Nigeria), Ayegbeni Yakubu (Nigeria), Steven Pienaar (South Africa).
Muhammed Sissoko (Mali).
Mohamed Shawky (Egypt).
Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Geremi (Cameroon), Abdoulaye Faye (Senegal), Habib Beye (Senegal).
Papa Bouba Diop (Senegal), Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), John Utaka (Nigeria), Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Lauren (Cameroon).
Andre Bikey (Cameroon), Emerse Fae (Ivory Coast), Ibrahima Sonko (Senegal).
Dickson Etuhu (Nigeria).
Hossam Ghaly (Egypt), Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast).
Danny Shittu (Nigeria)
WEST HAM UNITED
John Pantsil (Ghana), Henri Camara (Senegal).
Salomon Olembe (Cameroon), Julius Aghahowa (Nigeria).
Youssef Safri (Morocco),
STOKE CITY (D2)
Mamadi Sidibe (Mali)
LEEDS UNITED (D3)
Rui Marques (Angola)
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (D3)
Junior Agogo (Ghana)
ACCRINGTON STANLEY (D4)
Romauld Boco (Benin)