Latest News Editor's Choice

Sports / Local

Honouring Africa's top football talents

by Sports Reporter
18 Jun 2024 at 09:26hrs | Views

In my opinion, no continent has produced the range of footballing talent that Africa has, especially over the last 20 years. If you remember watching football back in the mid-noughties, African players were leading some of the top leagues in the world.

You only need to look at a Jay-Jay Okocha highlight reel to see what truly unique flair is all about. Let's go back 10 years before Okocha was lighting up the Premier League with his scintillating trickery.

My earliest football memory was watching highlights of George Weah literally running the entire length of the pitch to score one of the best individual goals against Verona in the history of Italian football. He picked up the ball on the edge of his own area, skipped past two Verona players, and knocked it past the final defender before slotting it into the corner. Few moments from the San Siro in the 1990s are able to hold a candle to this fine goal from Weah.

Weah is by no means the only African player who put the continent on the footballing map. However, his rise to the top of the sport influenced an entire generation of new African football stars looking to emulate one of the greatest strikers of the 1990s.

Continental competitions - AFCON and the Euros

Tens of millions of African football fans will be following the Euros. Due to the crossover appeal of domestic European leagues, many African fans will seek out the nations of their domestic clubs' favourite players to see how they do in their continental competitions. Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed sportsman on Instagram.

The Portuguese captain hopes to become the oldest player to compete at a Euros competition. However, he will have to hold out for another four years if he wants to break Gabor Kiraly's record.

Cristiano has made no secret of his desire to continue playing into his 40s, which he has alluded to several times over the last few years - and who are we to say that he can't continue performing at this level? He continues to steamroll numerous impressive records, and in Germany this summer, he will be hoping to increase the gap as the competition's highest-ever goal scorer.

The top African strikers of all time

Personally, my favourite striker of all time is Samuel Eto'o. If you grew up during this electric Barcelona period, you'll remember David Villa, Henry, Eto'o and Messi all dismantling the top teams in Europe. While Weah was slightly before my time, his impact was so profound that it led to him becoming the Liberian president and having his own statue in Monrovia. Honourable mentions for Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu and Roger Milla too - all of whom are titans of African football.

Modern-day African football stars

Liverpool superstar Mo Salah exemplifies just how much reach modern-day footballers can have, both in society and via modern-day mediums like social media. Mo has landed himself several Golden Boots and is considered one of the top Premier League strikers of his generation.

Many Liverpool fans will remember his role in Liverpool's Premier League and Champions League-winning sides in 2019 and 2020, especially as it resulted in their first league win since 1990. Despite Jurgen Klopp announcing he will leave Liverpool this summer, which throws Salah's future into uncertainty, his 155 goals in 250 games for the Reds mean he will be fondly remembered, even if he does decide to move on.

As we discussed in our introduction, George Weah at AC Milan, Salah at Liverpool and Yaya Toure at Barcelona and Manchester City are some of the best examples of modern-day African football stars. As the football news focus this summer swings toward football action on the European continent, some of tomorrow's new stars are already emerging as precocious, elite talents, such as Napoli striker Victor Osimhen.

Final thoughts

As you can see, a long line of highly decorated, elite footballers has emerged from Africa over the last half-century. George Weah was arguably the key name that helped to shine a light on the quality of some of the players on the continent. His success at AC Milan inspired a new generation of African footballers looking to emulate him.

Samuel Eto'o and his exploits at Barcelona immortalised him in Catalonian folklore. George Weah put Liberia on the map for the wider footballing community, as did Drogba with the Ivory Coast. If we're talking about Africa's top footballing talents, and we look at it objectively - they can hold a candle to any of the elite names on the global scene and have played a key role in propelling football into the continent's most popular sport.

Source - Byo24News