Liverpool duo of Mohammed Salah of Egypt and Sadio Mane of Senegal, along with youngsters Joel Matip of Cameroon and Liverpool and Achraf Hakimi of Morocco and Real Madrid have an opportunity to join the illustrious list of African players that have won the European Cup as Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the 2018 European Cup final today.
Here’s a look at the stars that make up the galaxy of African players that have won the European Cup.
1) Bruce Grobbelaar (Liverpool & Zimbabwe) 1984.
Bruce Grobbelaar is one of my favourite goalkeepers of all times, not just because of his goalkeeping abilities, but also because of his eccentricities.
Grobbelaar was fond of dancing, wearing crazy masks, doing cartwheels, swinging from the crossbar, etc in order to confuse opposing players (he also scored quite a few goals).
On one occasion when he did a couple of handstands that got the crowd roaring, his manager, Bill Paisley had to tell him to stop it because it might distract his own players. Paisley told him to save his tricks for testimonial matches.
Three Everton fans, dressed as jesters, ran on to the field during a Merseyside derby and taunted Grobbelaar with a placard that read ” Bruce the clown”. Liverpool was trailing 1-0 at the time and Grobbelaar said that the incident spurred him to play one of his best games ever in a derby.
Grobbelaar was the hero of Liverpool’s 1984 European Cup final. That final was between Liverpool and Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The match ended 1-1 after extra time and so the game was decided by a penalty shootout.
Grobbelaar started breakdancing as Italian legend Bruno Conti stepped up to take his penalty. Conti blasted the ball over the bar.
Francesco Graziani stepped up to take the penultimate kick for Roma and Grobbelaar turned around and started biting the net. This gave him an idea. He thought that the net felt like spaghetti, so he started wobbling his legs like spaghetti. Graziani also played the ball over the bar and Alan Kennedy stepped up, scored the last penalty and won the European Cup for Liverpool.
As I watched Thomas Ravelli’s antics for Sweden at the 1994 World Cup in America and anytime that I see a player with a protective face mask or headgear (eg, Petr Cech), the first name that pops into my head is Bruce Grobbelaar.
2) Rabah Madjer (FC Porto & Algeria) 1987.
This is one player that I hate very much and yet I also love him very much.
Rabah Madjer became an African legend when he scored an audacious backheeled goal in the 1987 European Cup final to help FC Porto defeat Bayern Munich 2-1 in Vienna. Bayern was leading when Madjer equalised with that wonderful goal. Pele is reported to have said, “It would have been the greatest goal I have ever seen if he had not looked back at it.”
I have hated Madjer since 1990 when he helped Algeria defeat Nigeria twice at the Nations Cup in Algeria. He scored twice in the first game of the tournament as Algeria defeated Nigeria 5-1 and he was inspirational as Algeria again defeated Nigeria (1-0) in the final of the competition.
I’ve started liking him again in 2017 after he held one of the most amazing press conferences I’ve ever seen. He is the coach of Algeria and he verbally destroyed a journalist in one of the angriest and strangest press conferences I’ve ever seen.
3) Abedi “Pele” Ayew (Olympique Marseilles & Ghana) 1993.
This is another player that I love to hate.
4) Finidi George (AFC Ajax & Nigeria) 1995.
Many Nigerians became Ajax fans at that time.
5) Nwankwo Kanu (AFC Ajax & Nigeria) 1995.
6) Ibrahim Tanko (Borussia Dortmund & Ghana) 1997.
7) Geremi Njitap (Real Madrid & Cameroon) 2000 & 2002.
8 ) Samuel Osei Kuffour (Bayern Munich & Ghana) 2001.
9) Benni McCarthy (FC Porto & South Africa) 2004.
10) Djimi Traore (Liverpool & Mali) 2005.
11) Samuel Eto’o Fils (Barcelona & Cameroon) 2006 & 2009. (Inter Milan) 2010.
12) Seydou Keita (Barcelona & Mali) 2009 & 2011.
13) Yaya Toure (Barcelona & Ivory Coast) 2009.
14) Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan & Ghana) 2010.
15) Mcdonald Mariga (Inter Milan & Kenya) 2010.
16) Didier Drogba (Chelsea & Ivory Coast) 2012.
17) Salomon Kalou (Chelsea & Ivory Coast) 2012.
18) Mikel John Obi (Chelsea & Nigeria) 2012
19) Michael Essien (Chelsea & Ghana) 2012.