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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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26 August 2018


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African Players with Eyes on World Domination


Kristian Sturt


The rise of African players is beyond doubt the rise of the most talented group of players the world has seen in the last 5 to 10 years.

Personally I think a major reason for this is because of the rise in the television coverage of the most successful leagues in the world, The Premiership started in 1992, 16 years ago, and older African players like Didier Drogba (29) and Kolo Toure (26), would have used leagues like the Premiership to influence their style of play and approach to the game. Football from all areas of the world has become globalised and as readily available as an African’s home league. Due to this I think that African players have found themselves more driven to become like greats of the game like those they see strutting on the European stage.

Obviously this is not the only reason why African football players have become known as some of the world’s best, In the 1990’s an unknown Cameroon side played England in the World Cup quarter final stages, England were expected to trounce the unknown Cameroon side that had somehow got to this stage, Cameroon were  2-1 up until Gary Linker bagged a penalty on 83 minutes, then another penalty on 105. Cameroon were eliminated, but they had done more then they could have ever expected and at the same time  made a name for themselves. They gave players that are playing now an example of what African players could achieve against the very best in the world.

Going hand in hand with this in 1995 the Liberian striker George Weah whilst at AC Milan won the European Footballer of the Year award, ( the Ballon d'Or)  becoming the first African player to do so, however he will not be the last.

The African countries have never and may never have any professional leagues of note. I base this view on the Ivory Coast team who in the World Cup were the only nation not to field any players from their home league whilst competing in the tournament.

The African leagues are undoubtedly poor, the drive for players like Essien and Toure to make a better life for themselves came from football from around the globe, not from their 'grass roots' level. Essien recently had an article written about him where he stated that he played from dusk till dawn, without shoes and with barely working footballs. His goal was to one day play in a league like the Premiership.

The flow of players coming out of Africa is not stopping. Young players like Emmanuel Adebayor (23) and John Obi Mikel (20) are proving themselves to be top class in the Premiership. Even younger players than these such as Mario Balotelli of Inter Milan at 17 years old and Rabiu Ibrahim of Sporting Lisbon at 16 are beginning to break through. These players now have the likes of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto to look up to and strive to become like. Are African nations the new South American nations, where every other signing is and often turns out to be the new wonderkid?

Which leads me on to the next question, will an African nation win the World Cup? In my view I would say yes, why not? However this may not be for a long time to come. However we should remember that in1930 and 1950 Uruguay won the World Cup, Uruguay were a leading force in world football. This proves that things change and with the abundance of talent rising from African countries, one day an African nation will be a leading force in the game. With teams like Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt and Cameroon why not sooner rather than later?

Many clubs are badly affected by the African Nations Cup tournament which should, in my opinion, be rearranged however that’s a different subject altogether. Teams like Chelsea who lost Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou could be said to have cost them major accolades. Arsenal lost Kolo Touré, Alexandre Song and Emmanuel Eboué.

If these players all played for professional teams in African leagues then would the competition run at the beginning of the New Year?

African players are beyond doubt some of the most talented players in the world. Their strength, ability on the ball, movement off the ball, pace and natural talent reminds me of some of the greats like Pele and Maradona. Will players like Rabiu Ibrahim be equally remembered? One thing goes without saying, they are getting better and better.

Published: Sunday, 9th Mar 2008