I’m a big fan of African football, and I feel it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves on the World stage. When Ghana took on England at Wembley they were hoping to become the first African team to beat us in any competition.
Whilst they didn’t manage that, the match pretty much summed up everything that’s great about the current state of African football. Great players (Asamoah Gyan’s fine solo goal in the 90th minute), great spirit and above all, great fans! 21,000 Ghanaians turned up to watch the Black Stars, and stayed well after the match was over, singing and celebrating the fact that their team had shown the world what they were capable of.
As a fan of African football, I’ve been digging around and found 10 of the Greatest African players for your delectation. It’s not a definitive list, but I think it’s a fair one!
Samuel Eto’o – Cameroon. Currently playing for Inter, but also had spells at Barcelona and Real Madrid. Eto’o has won La Liga 3 times, the Champions League 3 times, Serie A once and has an Olympic Gold Medal. Scored 197 goals in his career so far, and has won the CAF Player of the Year Award 4 times. Arguably, the greatest African footballer of all time.
Didier Drogba – Ivory Coast. Currently at Chelsea. Was bought from Marseille in 2004, where he scored 19 goals in 35 appearances. One of my favourite players of all time, at his best he is absolutely unplayable. Drogba has 94 goals for Chelsea, and has won 3 Premier League titles and 3 FA Cups with the Blues.
Victor Ikpeba – Nigeria. Played for Monaco and Borussia Dortmund amongst others. One of the lesser known stars of African football, he was bought by Arsene Wenger when the Arsenal manager was at AS Monaco. Ikpeba won the French title with Monaco, and eventually scored 55 goals for the French club. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal with Nigeria. Deserves to be on this list for his 30 caps.
Emmanuel Adebayor – Togo. Currently at Real Madrid. Starred in the Premiership with Arsenal and Manchester City. Yet to win a major trophy, but once named CAF Player of the Year. Great in the air and good in the ground, but has a reputation for petulance which has won him few fans. One of the current stars of African football.
Frederic Kanoute – Mali. Currently at Sevilla, where he’s scored 81 goals and won 2 UEFA Cups. 33 year old Kanoute starred in the Premiership with Tottenham and West Ham. One of the few players on this list to come from North Africa. Never really hit form in the Premiership, but showed his class in Spain. Won CAF Player of the Year in 2007, beating Drogba and Micheal Essien to the title.
Patrick Mboma – Cameroon. Played for Parma, Cagliari and also spent time at Sunderland. Another one of Africa’s hidden gems, Mboma won the African Cup of Nation’s twice with Cameroon, and also won an Olympic Gold Medal. Was made CAF Player of the Year in 2000. Got 56 caps for the Indomitable Lions and scored 33 goals.
El Hadji Diouf – Senegal. Currently at Rangers, but also starred for Liverpool, Bolton and Blackburn. Love him or hate him (mostly hate him) he’s one of Africa’s best exports. Shot to prominence following the 2002 World Cup which saw his Senegal team beat France in the opening match, but he’d already won a CAF Player of the Year before that in 2001. Has 48 career goals to his name, but has only won a League Cup with Liverpool and a Scottish League Cup with Rangers.
Nwankwo Kanu – Nigeria. One of the Premiership’s best loved players, Kanu played for Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth. He also played for Inter and Ajax. The 6ft 5in striker has practically won everything in the game. 3 FA Cups, 2 Premier League titles, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Champions League, 1 Olympic Gold Medal and twice named CAF Player of the Year. And all achieved whilst managing a serious heart condition! 86 Nigeria caps, and 13 goals for the Super Eagles.
Mustapha Hadji – Morocco. The only other North African footballer to feature on the list, and the single midfielder. Won CAF Player of the Year in 1998, whilst at Deportivo La Coruna. Also featured for Aston Villa and Coventry whilst in this country. At 39 years old he still plays for Fola Esch, in the Luxembourg National League.
George Weah – Liberia. Named the Greatest African Player of all-time, George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah is the very definition of footballing legend. The Liberian played for AC Milan, Paris Saint Germain and Monaco, and also featured for Chelsea and Manchester City. Won an FA Cup with Chelsea, 2 Serie A titles and a French League trophy to name but a few of his honours. Also named World Player of the Year in 1995 by FIFA. Won the CAF Player of the Year 3 times, and scored a 194 goals in his career.
As I said before, it’s not a definitive list and I’ve chosen players that all won CAF Player of the Year Awards at one time in their careers. You probably have a few more suggestions! Mark my words though, African football is on the up and I’ve no doubt we will see a few more players added to this list – Asamoah Gyan, Micheal Essien, Cheick Tiote…..
Nkosi Sikilele Africa – God Bless African football!
Follow Peter Turner on Twitter @petermagpie