Their skill and approach to the beautiful game is incredible, their dominance and ascendancy on and off the pitch is so bewitching to accomplish that often you end up screaming, “How on earth did he do that?”
Here are the top 8 Greatest African Players Ever:
1. GEORGE OPPONG WEAH (LIBERIA)
For everything good football, George Weah was Africa’s frontiersman!
This list, surely, must be George Weah and nine others. When you’ve got him, it’s his team. Named the greatest African player of all-time, George Weah is the very characterization of footballing myth. In an era when footballers are as often on the front page of newspapers as the back, when they have become as well known for their spendthrift pay packets as their playmaking, when they are more liable to be modeling clothes than muddying them, there is at least one celebrated exception to football’s yob rule – George Weah.
A worthy example on how to ball in Africa. He had speed, power and great shooting ability. He terrorized the defenders with his blistering pace and sheer presence. However, Weah served sleepless nights to Serie A defenders not because of his powerful body but because of his tremendous technical ability. He had sudden acceleration, great variation in his dodging ability, unbelievable shooting power and pinpoint accuracy.
His record shattering stats surely tell us what our eyes once saw: Weah is Africa’s best.
2. JAY-JAY OKOCHA (NIGERIA)
Jay Jay Okocha was Africa’s answer to Lionel Messi.
This was a man who brought fame even to the defenders who took the rather hangdog act of marking him. When Jay-Jay Okocha was on the ball, sticking out that torso, body quivering, dancing on the balls of his feet, there was something devastatingly epic about the way he moved opponents in times of yore.
It would sap your strength out wondering how one man could craft so many ridiculously good touches. He scored the kind of goals you would normally see only tried on a computer game. Okocha did not do tap-ins.
What the Nigerian did was drop his shoulder, slalom through the often hostile opposition defence, accelerate, go sluggishly down with his dribbles, pick up the pace again, go round the goalkeeper and put a good finish to a move so sweet. Nobody ever attacked a defence more thrillingly, with such relentless, brilliant fury.
Nobody left so many opposition fans staring with such horrified admiration. Bet against Okocha inventing the art of dribbling but he took it to its highest level; the height that many of his peers and the next generation were and are finding hard to imitate.
3. SAMUEL ETO’O FILS (CAMEROON)
Samuel Eto’o, far left, shared the same stage with some of the world’s finest!
There are those that believe Eto’o Fils lives in the world of soccer’s greats on his day. And few with dispute the obvious truth. Fancy trickery and step-overs aren’t in truth his style. Nor is breaching through defences with utter brute muscle. But the one thing African footballer Samuel Eto’o does in good health: score goals. His gift to turn games and never-say-die attitude has lifted the striker to idolatry status in the eyes of the fanatical Cameroonian support.
He’s a committed player, whose hunger for goals never gets in the way of his desire to do the best for his team. Eto’o is fast footed and capable of leaving his markers flailing behind him. As football became increasingly big business, Eto’o became the African ‘brand’. This attractive, enigmatic figurehead was now a comprehensive superstar, admired by all and feared by opponents.
4. ABEDI AYEW PELE (GHANA)
With Abedi’s every touch, he was hailed as one of the finest to have ever kicked the ball.
Brash. Skilful. Tricky. An uninhibited playmaker. Abedi Ayew Pele stands tall in the annals of football history in Africa. His enormous giving to football growth in Ghana and Africa are insuperable. Throw up an “African Best Player List” out to the watching public and the name Abedi Pele perpetually will make, even, the most elite list.
His dexterous skills and elegant athleticism makes him one of Africa’s most successful exports and one of its most fêted sons. The only Ghanaian this far named in Pele’s ‘FIFA 100’ list of the greatest players in history, Ayew’s most important contribution to African football could be as inspiration to the next generations of African footballers that grew up watching him play against the best in the world.
He wielded a perfect combination of aggression, passion and off-the-chain skill. His legacy can be seen at the uppermost levels on Europe’s pitches today, weighed down as they are with talent from Africa.
5. NWANKWO KANU (NIGERIA)
Kanu’s gift to the game earned him audience with greats.
The most decorated player in African football history. That answers it. So, forget the poor lifestyle choices. Forget his health battles. Forget his slow pass of the ball. For years Kanu was the best player in Africa and a remarkable talent. Some of the world’s best defenders, although not admitting it publically, lived in fear of him. One of greatest ever, without doubt. There’s only one Nwankwo Kanu.
A legend in his own time, Nwankwo Kanu is both the most successful and most consistent Nigerian international of his generation. He scored spectacular goals, terrorized defenders with his aggression and grit and went over the top when the boots were flying. As a forward he combined brute force and subtle skill to a devastating effect, which made him at his peak the majority of top-flight central defenders’ most-feared opponent.
His head was always up, bless his lanky stature. He was constantly surveying the field, looking for his teammates, knew where his nearest opponents were, and you could tell he was always thinking three moves ahead. He had great ball control and his dribbling art in tight quarters was awesome-superb.
6. DIDIER DROGBA (IVORY COAST)
Talk striking class in Africa, talk Didier Drogba!
There have been few, if any, healthier goal-poachers in Africa’s footballing history either than Didier Drogba. With his work ethic, rate of knots, muscle, capacity to win headers and readiness to run at defenders with the ball, Drogba poses the sort of danger that has defenders revising their defensive lesson notes after every game.
You judge a striker by his goals. You judge Drogba by Drogba. That simple. Going solo is one of his trademarks, sometimes to the irritation and frustration of his team mates, though more often to their joyfulness, as he would often win a game all on his own. His aggression was matched by hardly any and whenever he received the ball with his back to the goal he immediately turned and attempted a “Goal of the Week” hit.
His pure will and determination mixed with his marvellous abilities to hit the back of the net made him a true inspiration for his team mates and a fan-favorite wherever he would play.
7. ROGER MILLA (CAMEROON)
Roger Milla hit higher heights and here is seen playing football during the 1Goal launch of the Qatar FA project ‘Education at Your Feet’ at the Wanderers in Illovo.
For most players, the mid-thirties are a time of career flux. Having gone through their apprenticeship and learnt the ropes, thirty-something’s usually become frail components of the clubs and country’s they work for. But for Mr. Milla the reverse is true and the closer he edged to his forties, the more he hogged the limelight and became the poster boy of Cameroonian football.
Roger Milla who won the best African footballer of the half century award is often ascribed as the encouragement behind modern African football and without doubt a major actor behind Cameroon’s football success story. The heart, soul and essence of the Cameroon sides of the ’80s and ’90s, Milla went on to be named the African Footballer of the 20th Century. Lofty heights for a man, especially considering that the award was earned based on his achievements after reaching the age of 38!
The memories “Sir” Milla left will take far longer to fade. His performance can only be attributed to passion and desire. To this day, the post-goal merriment of his days of glory in Italy is still mimicked.
8. SAMUEL OSEI-KUFFUOR (GHANA)
Samuel Osei-Kuffour defended with his heart and pride!
Whichever yardstick you use in measuring the greatness of Osei-Kuffour, you’d always arrive at the same one-word conclusion – legend. Heart and passion. No other defender in Africa had those qualities in him in the amounts that the former Munich demigod had.
Every tackle he dived into, every header he elevated towards, he got into with full force, and usually won it, first to get up when the dust cleared. He’s was not immuned to a sporadic blunder or mistake but he made up for them with his non-stop effort during the whole 90 minutes, and despite all the flashy names Africa churned out, Osei Kuffour was and is the heart & soul in defending.
Kuffour was always reliable to clear the ball in his area and also full of bravery, leadership and concentration on his game. It has rarely been a mistake of his. The Ghanaian was admired for his reading of the game and ability to anticipate opposition movement and had uncanny intuitive sense for where the ball was headed.