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FunTimes Magazine

From Africa To The World: African Players And Their Influence On International Club Football

Jul 04, 2024 10:00AM ● By Okechukwu Nzeribe

Source: Instagram | Ademola Lookman

On May 22, 2024, Italian club Atalanta and German club Bayer Leverkusen squared up at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Republic of Ireland for what would be an electric night for Europe’s second-best competition, the UEFA Europa League Final. 

Bayern Leverkusen coming off a near-perfect season having been crowned Bundesliga champions and enjoying a 51-game streak, and Atalanta experiencing its first European final, the stage was set for a mouth-watering clash of football with many pundits tipping the Bundesliga Champions to steal the day.

As promised, it was a mouth-watering clash, unexpectedly it was a one-way riot for Nigerian Forward Ademola Lookman as he stole the thunder from Bayern Leverkusen and streaked the football night with a Hat-Trick that sealed the game and won Atalanta the UEFA Europa League Trophy.

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Like many before him, Ademola Lookman will enter the history books as one of the many past and present African players who have contributed to the success story of their various international clubs.  Following in the steps of past players like George Weah (Liberian) whose performance for the Italian giant’s AC Milan earned him the Ballon d’Or in 1995 becoming the first African and non-European player to clinch the award.

Other past players like Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) Samuel Eto (Cameroun), Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast), Seydou Keita(Mali), Rabah Madjer (Algeria), Finidi George (Nigeria) and many others have continued to elicit fond memories of their contributions for club and country.

Yaya Toure coaching players. Source: Instagram | Yaya Toure

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All over Europe and other leagues beyond the African continent, there is a rising tide of African players who are not only contributing to the success stories of their various football clubs, they are also becoming worthy ambassadors for the African continent.

The likes of Mohammed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Victor Osimhen (Nigeria), Andre Onana (Cameroun), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Achraf Hakimi (Morocco) and many others have made so much impact at club levels and become dependable starters at every league match. 

The women are not left out as well. Joining the ranks of African players and their influence on international club football are the likes of Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria), Tabitha Chawinga (Malawi), Racheal Kundananji (Zambia), Rasheedat Ajibade (Nigeria), Jermaine Seoposenwe (South Africa) among many others.

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One of the remarkable features of African players has been their stamina, pace, skill, shooting prowess, incredible work rate, and creativity which several coaches leveraged during games to get a step ahead of other teams.

With such competitive nature especially with European football, the physicality and stamina of African players have become instrumental in providing opportunities for budding young African talents to be scouted by various club representatives looking for that fresh pair of legs ready to contribute to their trophy cabinet.

For many of these budding talents back at home, playing at the international club level is a dream come true and an upward move on their choice of profession. It is why opportunities to play on the global stage are met with determination and zeal to prove one’s mettle because it also guarantees them more playing time with their clubs as well as a possible national call-up to represent their country at different world competitions.

Beyond the pitch, the influence of African players extends to various philanthropies where they give back to their communities by tackling issues such as poverty, housing deficit, and lack of education among many other social issues.

Whether it is the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, or every other international club competition, the influence of African players cannot be dismissed. A visitor to the museums of many of these trophy-winning clubs is likely to see an African among the list of players who were part of the trophy-winning team.

On the global football stage, African players will continue to shine as bright as stars, bringing hope and inspiring the next generation of football sensations from the continent. 

 Okechukwu Nzeribe works with the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, in Anambra State, Nigeria, and loves unveiling the richness of African cultures.  [email protected]

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