Sunday, August 4, 2019

Africa Greatest All-Time Team

George Weah:  Ballon d'Or winner 1995
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

GhanaCameroonNigeriaSouth AfricaTunisia
AlgeriaMoroccoEgyptIvory CoastSenegal,
North Africa
The Rest of Africa(excluding Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Nigeria and North Africa).
Liverpool African or African born Best XI

I have done a number of more specific blog teams for Africa.  An All-African blog team did not appeal to me.  I preferred a more detailed and in depth approach to my blog teams.  However, the idea of making an All-African team came up my trip to Kenya and Tanzania.  I started and nearly completed it while in Africa. Most of the research was basically a combination of all of my African blog teams.

The Confederation of African Football was founded, in June 1954. In 1957, the first African Cup of Nations was held in Khartoum, Sudan.  It was won by Egypt.  African-born players such Eusebio, Mario Coluna, etc also started to emerge in the 1960's, but they represented for their colonial national team in Europe.  Eusebio's performance at the 1966 World Cup Finals was one of the best ever by a player in the World Cup Finals up until that point.

Africa's first participation in the WC Finals began in 1938 by Egypt, but withdrew before playing any matches..  However, from 1938 to 1970, CAF shared World Cup Finals spot with other confederations.  No African team qualified for the World Cup Finals until 1970 when CAF gained its World Cup spot.  Morocco earned a draw and two defeats in West Germany.  In 1978, Tunisia beat Mexico becoming the first African team to win a game in history.  In 1986, Morocco becomes first African team into the Round of 16.  Then, Cameroon surprised the world with its historical run in 1990.
Michael Essien and Didier Drogba

GK: Thomas N'Kono (Cameroon)
Thomas N'Kono was among the best keepers from the 1980's and probably the most famous goalkeeper ever from Africa.  He played in three WC Finals.  Gianluigi Buffon was inspired by him and named his son Thomas after him.  After playing in his country with Canon Yaoundé and Tonnerre Yaoundé he moved to Spain with RCD Español in 1982. , He received the France Football African Footballer of the Year award in 1982 and in 1979.

GK: Bruce Grobbelaar (Zimbabwe)
Bruce Grobbelaar made 628 appearances for Liverpool in 13 years.  He was considered among the best England-based keepers of his generation and a legend with Liverpool. He won the 1984 European Cup, 6 English league titles and 3 FA Cups. Born in South Africa, he moved to Rhodesia as a child.  He played one game for Rhidesia in 1977.  From 1980 to 1998, he was capped 32 times by Zimbabwe, but with several years where he was absent for the national team.

GK : Essam El-Hadary (Egypt)
EL-Hadary was the starting keeper for Egypt as it dominated African Cup of Nations. He won four African Cup of Nations: 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010.  He was chosen the best keeper in 2006, 2008 and 2010.  He was a major player in Egypt's treble titles. At the age of 45, he became the oldest player ever to make ahis debut in a WC Finals history during Russia 2018. From 1996 to 2008, he played with Al Ahly. From 2008 onward, he played for many clubs, including briefly with FC Sion in Switzerland.
Essam El-Hadary
RB:  Lauren Etame Mayer (Cameroon)
Lauren  was known for his career with Arsenal in England. He was part of Arsenal's "Invincibles", a title given to Arsenal's team that went undefeated team in the Premiership.  He was named in the PFA Team of the Year that season.  He also played in Spain. With Cameroon, he won two African Cup of Nations. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with Cameroon.

Essam El-Hadary
Essam El-Hadary
RB: Hatem Trabelsi (Tunisia)
Hatem Trabelsi has represented the Tunisia  in three World Cups, gaining a total of 66 cap.  He was a part of the national team's 2004 African Nations' Cup winning team. He spent 6 years with Ajax, where he was regarded as one of the best rightback playing in Europe and probably the most well-known player from his country. He has also played for CS Sfaxien, Manchester City and Al-Hilal Riyadh. 

SW: Bwanga Tshimen (Zaire/Congo)
Bwanga Tshimen was nicknamed "Black Beckenbauer".  He is widely considered one of the best defenders from Africa.  He won the 1973 African Footballer of the Year.  He was a part of  Zaire's ill-fated team at the 1974 World Cup in Germany, in which Zaire played poorly.  For club football, he played for TP Mazembe back home.
Bwanga Tshimen (L)
CB: Lucas Radebe (South Africa)
Lucas Radebe began playing in South Africa with Kaizer Chiefs in 1989, before transferring to Leeds United in 1994, where he played 200 matches for the Yorkshire side. During his spells at these clubs, he picked up the nicknames "Rhoo" and "The Chief". He became captain of Leeds United and also of the South African national team, most notably at World Cup 2002.  Fromm 1993 to 2003, he played over 70 times for South Africa.  In 2000, he was awarded the FIFA Fair Play Award.

CB: Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast)
He is Yaya Toure's brother.  He was a member of Arsenal's undefeated team in 2003-2004.  He later joined Manchester City andLiverpool. Touré is the second-most capped player for the Ivory Coast, with 118 appearances from 2000 to 2015. He represented the team at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup Finals. Touré also represented the Ivory Coast at seven Africa Cup of Nations tournaments between 2002 and 2015, helping them finish runner-up in 2006 and 2012, while winning in 2015.

CB: Samuel Kuffour (Ghana)
Samuel Kuffour was probably Ghana's most famous defender.  He spent 11 seasons with Bayern Munich, winning almost everything.  He won the Champions' League in 2001. He was twice runnerup for the African Player of the Year and won Ghana Player of Year in 1998, 1999 and 2001. He was capped 59 times.  He played in the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany. His youth career started with Torino in Italy.  He also played for Roma, Ajax and Livorno. 

CB:  Noureddine Naybet (Morocco)
Naybet was one of the best African defender ever.  He played a record 115 matches for the Moroccan national team, representing the country in two World Cups and six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. He spent most successful period of his career with Deportivo La Coruña in Spain. He won the 1999-2000 league title with them. He was one of the best center-back in La Liga.
Noureddine Naybet

LB: Salem Ben Miloud (Morocco)
Salem Ben Miloud started his career in Morocco with Wydad Casablanca.  He moved to France in 1946.  He spent 10 seasons with Olympique de Marseille, winning the league title once in 1948. He played a single season with Toulouse FC before retiring. He retired from football before Morocco played its first international game in 1957. He was uncapped.

DM: Rifaat El-Fanagily (Egypt)
Rifaat El-Fanagily was born in 1936.  He is considered one of the best Egyptian players of all-time.  He made his national team debut in 1956.  He won the 1957 and 1959 Africa Cup of Nations, and represented his country in the 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics, playing under the United Arab Republic banner on both occassions. At the domestic club level, Rifaat El-Fanagily played for Al Ahly during his career between 1955 and 1967.

CM: Michael Essien (Ghana)
Michael Essien was one of the best central midfielders in the world during his prime. He first became a star while playing for Lyon.  Then, he moved to Chelsea.  Over there, he won a Champions' league, two Premier League titles and four FA Cups.  He also played with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Panathinaikos. Essien earned 58 caps in total.  He had represented his nation at three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. Essien has also represented Ghana at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

CM: Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
Yaya Toure is probably one of the best African player of his generation.  He went to three World Cup Finals at the 2006, 2010. He also represented them in six Africa Cup of Nations, captaining them to victory in 2015. Touré had stints with Beveren, Metalurh Donetsk, Olympiacos, and AS Monaco before moving to Barcelona in 2007. In 2010, Touré moved to Premier League club Manchester City where he helped City earn their first league title in 44 years. He is among the greatest Manchester City players.

AM: Lakhdar Belloumi (Algeria) 
Lakhdar Belloumi is considered to be the best Algerian player of all-time.  He scored one of the goals that beat West Germany at the 1982 World Cup Finals. He is voted as the 4th best African player of the century.  He holds the record as the most capped Algerian player with 147 national caps.  He won the African Player of the Year award in 1981. 
Lakhdar Belloumi

AM: Jay-Jay Okocha  (Nigeria) 
Jay-Jay Okocha is widely considered to be one of Nigeria's greatest footballers. In 2007 Jay-Jay Okocha was voted number 12 on the greatest African footballers of the past 50 years by CAF.  He was Nigeria Player of the Year in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.  He played in three World Cup Finals(1994, 1998, 2002) and won an Olympic Gold medal in 1996.  At the club level, he played for Fenerbahçe, Eintracht Frankfurt, PSG, Bolton Wanderers and Hull City.

AM/SS: Abedi Pele (Ghana)
Abedi Pele was one of the greatest African player ever.  He was best remembered for his career with Marseille, where he won the first ever Champions' League title for a French club.  He was African Player of the Year for three straight years between 1991 and 1993. He was voted 3rd as the African Player of the Century. He had 77 caps for Ghana. He was a member of the team that won African Cup of Nations in 1982. He was at one point the country's all-time top scorer.

FW: Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)
Nwankwo Kanu was voted as Nigeria's greatest player.  He captained Nigeria's Gold Medal team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.  He was African Player of the Year in 1996 and 1999.  He was a member of Ajax that won the 1995 Champions' League and considered one of the greatest club sides in history.  Because of a heart condition, his career in Italy was interrupted and joined Arsenal in 1999, where he enjoyed 6 great seasons and won two Premiership. 
Nwankwo Kanu
AM/FW: George Weah (Liberia) 
In terms of individual awards, no other African player wins more awards than him.  He was was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d'Or in 1995.  He won African Footballer of the Year: 1989, 1994, 1995.  He was voted African Player of the Century in 1996.  He had great careers with AC Milan where he won two Serie A titles. He also played for Paris St Germaine and AS Monaco in France. In 2017, Weah was elected as the President of Liberia.

ST: Samuel E'too (Cameroon) 
Samuel E'too started his career with the academy of Real Madrid, but he made his name with Mallorca. He was a part of the famous "REM" line at Barcelona where he won two Champions' league titles.   He moved to Inter Milan in 2009 and won a third Champions' league in 2009-2010.  He won the African Player of the Year award a record four times: in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010. He was capped 118 caps with Cameroon.
Samuel E'too
ST: Mohamed Salah  (Egypt) 
"Mo" Salah played with El Mokawloon in Egypt before heading to play for Basel in Switzerland. In 2013, he won the best player award in Switzerland.  He earned a big move to Chelsea in 2014, but he ended up with a loan move to Fiorentina and Roma.  In 2017, he moved to Liverpool after starring for Roma.  In 2017, he helped Egypt for their first World Cup Finals since 1990.  In the WC Finals, he scored a single goal.

ST: Roger Milla (Cameroon)
Roger Milla became an international star after he scored 4 goals at the World Cup Finals in 1990 as Cameroon reached the quarterfinal.  He was already 38 years old. Many people credited Cameroon for putting African football on the map. Then, in 1994, he became the oldest goal-scorer in World Cup history when he scored against Russia.  He was voted the African Player of the Century.  He was the African Footballer of the Year in 1976 and 1990.

ST: Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Didier Drogba was voted African Footballer of the Year twice: 2006 and 2009.  He is probably Ivory Coast's greatest ever player and probably among the greatest ever striker from Africa. The best part of his career was spent with Chelsea in England.  He won the Champions' League for 20011-12. He also finished the top scorer in the Premiership twice.  He also played in France, MLS and China. For his country, he led Ivory Coast to the World Cup Finals in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He was also their all-time leading scorer.
Didier Drogba

Honorable Mention
Joseph-Antoine Bell (Cameroon),  Jacques Songo’o (Cameroon), Stephen Tataw (Cameroon), Rigobert Song (Cameroon), Ahmed Faras (Morocco), Berry Nieuwenhuys (South Africa), Alex Song (Cameroon), Anthony Yeboah (Ghana), Paul Bonga Bonga (Congo), Mahamadou Diarra (Mali), Rabah Madjer (Algeria), ,Mahmoud El Khatib (Egypt), Abdelaziz Ben Tifour (Algeria), Bwanga Tshimen (Zaire/Congo), Tarak Dhiab (Tunisia), Salif Keita (Mali), Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia),  Ibrahim Youssef (Egypt), Papa Camara (Guinea), Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Sadio Mané (Senegal), Jomo Sono (South Africa), Patrick Ntsoelengoe (South Africa), Stephen Keshi (Nigeria),  Finidi George (Nigeria), Emmanuel Amunike (Nigeria), Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), Victor Ikpeba (Nigeria).

Special Mention(African players who played for European national teams before the founding of their own national teams.  Those players would have easily make this team.  In their era, they would have no choice, but to play for European national teams. I created this becasuse I do not know where to put them)

CM: Mario Coluna (Portugal/Mozambique)
Mario Coluna is one of the greatest player ever for both Portugal and Benfica. He spent most of his career with Benfica, appearing in 525 official games and scoring 127 goals during 16 professional seasons. Dubbed Monstro Sagrado (Sacred Monster), he won 19 major titles with his main club, including ten national leagues. He won two European Cup with Benfica in 1961 and 1962.  He was the captain of Portugal in the 1966 World Cup. He was known to be Eusebio's friend and his top assister on the field.

AM: Larbi Benbarek  (France/Morocco)
Larbi Benbarek was born and raised in Morocco in the period when the country was under the French rule.  He was the first Black player to reach stardom in Europe, earning the nick name "Black Pearl". He made his name with Stade Francasis Paris.  In 1948, he moved to Atletico Madrid, where he reached the height of his career and won two La Liga title.  He is considered one of the greatest ever French player. He was capped 19 times between 1938 and 1954.

ST: Eusebio (Portugal/Mozambique)
Along with Pele, he was considered to be the best player in the world during the 1960's.  He helped Portugal reach third place at the 1966 World Cup, being the top goalscorer of the tournament with nine goals (including four in one match against North Korea) and received the Bronze Ball award. He won the Ballon d'Or award for European footballer of the year in 1965 and was runner-up in 1962 and 1966. He played for Benfica 15 out of his 22 years as a footballer.  He won the European Cup in 1961.

Squad Explanation
-- This team is lending toward the more recent players.  And I did my best to spread the team around.  
-- George Weah, Thomas N'Kono, Mohamed Salah, Samuel E'too, Abedi Pele and Didier Drogba are among the greatest ever from Africa.
-- Nigerian players are under represented here.  They are among the top footballing nations in Africa, but only Jay-Jay Okocha  and  Nwankwo Kanu made the team.  Rashidi Yekini was Nigeria's first ever winner of the African Player of the Year.  The other winners are Emmanuel Amunike, Nwankwo Kanu and Victor Ikpeba.  They made honorable mentions only.
-- For goalkeepers, Thomas N'Kono and Bruce Grobbelaar are certain choices for this team. The Cameroonian pairs of  Jacques Songo’o and Joseph-Antoine Bell are strong contenders for the third choice.  In the end, I took Essam El Hadary.  Arthur Wharton was born in Africa and never played for any national team. I went with the more modern goalkeepers.  I admitted that I switched my criteria all the time.  Sometimes, the lack of European exposure hurts a player's chance on my blog team, but on this occasion, I honoured the Egyptian goalkeeper for his achievement in Africa.  He is probably the greatest African goalkeeper in the history of the African Nations' Cup.  
-- On the other hand,  I selected Lucas Radebe (South Africa) over Wael Gomaa for the opposite season.  Radebe had a stunning club career in Europe while Gomma was limited to African Nations' Cup successes. I also wanted to spread the team around. I have ignored successful South Africans playing in England before the 1950's and in the NASL during the 1970's. I admitted adding a South African onto the team is one of the reason why he was selected. I always believe in spreading around the team with reasonable consideration.  Arthur Riley and Berry Nieuwenhuys (South Africa) were considered.  Patrick Ntsoelengoe was also not selected because I went for players with better experience playing outside Africa.
-- Hatem Trabelsi (Tunisia) beat out Emmanuel Eboue for the rightback spot.
-- Zaire's gap with the rest of the world was clearly illustrated at the 1974 WC Finals. Nevertheless, Bwange Tshimen was still widely considered above any African player of his era.  He was a pioneer of the African football.  This blog team has ignored too many old-timers. It is time to honour him. 
-- Salem Ben Miloud (Morocco) was uncapped, making him eligible for Morocco, but I do not have space for him.
-- I also failed to honour older players such as Tarak Dhiab (Tunisia), Theophile Abega (Cameroon), Mahmoud El Khatib (Egypt), Saleh Selim (Egypt), Laurent Pokou (Ivory Coast) and Abdelaziz Ben Tifour (Algeria) were overlooked.  The players selected ahead of them were very talented.
-- The team is very unbalanced.  I need wingers.  Sadio Mané and Kalusha Bwalya are probably Africa's greatest left wingers. Craig Johnston was included on my South African All-Time Team.  He was an uncapped player and probably would have ignored the South African national team at his time.  However, plenty of South African players have similar issue and they were included on that team. In the end, I did not seriously consider him because of his nationality issue.  Sadio Mané (Senegal) would one day make the team.   Finidi George was also seriously considered.  
-- I created a "Special Mention" section in this blog.  Several African superstars played for European national teams before the founding of their own national teams.  Esuebio, Mario Coluna and Larbi Benbarek would definitely make this team.  In their era, they would have no choice, but to play for European national teams. Because of what they had done for African football, I have to put them somewhere. I created this section below because I do not know where to put them.  One day, I would like to create a complete new blog team for those players.  
--- Esuebio is probably the greatest ever African born player, but he is ineligible because he played for Portugal.  The blog is about national team.  On the other hand, Abdelaziz Ben Tifour did play for FLN, which I considered to be the Algerian national team.  He was on my all-time Algerian national team.  FLN/Algeria emerged after the was cap-tied to France. It was liked some of the Soviet and Yugoslav player switching to a newly independent state. 
-- Larbi Benbarek of France reached stardom even before Esuebio. He played in an era before the founding of Morocco's national team.  Would he play for Morocco if he played in a different era? I think so. In the end, I went with what happened in real-life.  He played for France. 
-- Paul Bonga Bonga (Congo) also have done a lot for African football, but I did not have space for him.   He was an uncapped payer which made him eligible for this team.  However, I had Lakhdar Belloumi, Abedi Pele,  Jay-Jay Okocha, Yaya Toure, Michael Essien and George Weah ahead of him.  I do not think he belonged to the Special Mention section because he was uncapped.
-- No Rabah Madjer? It is controversial not to select him, but I have Mohamed Salah, Samuel E'too and Didier Drogba ahead of him.  Meanwhile, I have a special reason to select Roger Milla.
-- Roger Milla was often listed among the greatest African player.  However, outside of the World Cup Finals, Roger Milla did not have a strong club career.  I selected him because he has put African football and their national teams on the map with his World Cup performance.  He has done a lot for African football.  



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