In Sports, Africans and athletes of African descent have always held their own and continue to amaze the rest of the globe with their strength, skills and uncommon dedication to achieving success even amidst poor infrastructural support and all the other challenges society places on our path.
Go Africa reports that some of the biggest stories coming out of the last London Olympic Games were headlined by African athletes. Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee “blade runnner”, inspired everyone with his gutsy performance in the semi-finals of the 400m and the final 400m relay. Botswana’s 18 year old Nijel Amos, and Gabon’s Anthony Obame have become heroes for winning the first Olympic medals for their respective countries in the 800m and Taekwondo (+80kg division) respectively. David Rudisha (Kenya) proved he is one of the best athletes the world has ever seen as he handily won the 800m in world record time. Rudisha is the first Maasai to win an Olympic medal, since his father Daniel won a silver in the 4x400m relay during the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico. Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) defended her 10,000m gold successfully with Kenyan runner Sally Kipyego picking up silver and her team mate Vivian Cheruiyot getting the bronze. Chad Le Clos butterflied his way to a gold and silver medal in the pool, dueling Michael Phelps. 21 year old Caster Semenya (South Africa) won a triumphant silver medal in her 800m. The East Africans once again dominated the long-distance running events, and both marathons were won by Africans. All in all, London 2012 was a success for the African continent.
Add the above to the list of African born athletes who represented countries from other continents such as Somali-born Bristish athlete Mo Farah who won the gold in the men’s 10,000m and you better appreciate what gift Africa is to the world of sports.
In addition, it is pertinent to note that out of the last 25 Boston Marathons, Kenyans have won 19 of them. This year Wilson Kipsang won the London marathon, ensuring that out of the last nine London marathons, eight have been won by Kenyans.
Perhaps it is in Football that Africans have held global headlines the most and today continue to make the greatest impact. Football itself is like a religion in Africa. We dream, eat, play and sleep football. The passion we show for the beautiful game is unequalled. Many have described it as the greatest unifying factor on the continent and no moment captured and celebrated this passion more than the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the first time the event would be hosted in Africa and in many ways an endorsement of the giant strides Africans have made contributing to the development of the game.
Such contribution can be seen from the life and exploits of such players as Liberia’s George Weah the two time African Footballer of the year (1989 and 1995) who was crowned European Footballer of the year as well as FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995. Roger Milla another two time African Footballer of the year (1976 and 1990) who achieved international stardom at 38 scoring four goals at the 1990 World Cup and being the oldest goal scorer in the World Cup at 42 in USA’94.
More recently, the world has celebrated the career of Samuel Eto’o, the most decorated African Player of all time and Cameroon all-time top scorer with 52 goals. He is the only player to have won the African Footballer of the Year award four times (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010) and has played in three World Cups, six African Nations Cups, and is the all-time leading scorer in the African Nations Cup with 18 goals. Eto’o is the first ever player to win two European Trebles back to back with Barcelona and Internazionale and is also a 2000 Olympic Gold Medallist.
Furthermore, African countries have participated in and won many global tournaments over the years. The exploits of Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup is a good reference. Nigeria in 1996 won the Olympics gold in Atlanta a feat repeated by Cameroon in 2000 in Sydney. African countries have equally won countless other trophies especially in the various age group tournaments.
There’s an abundance of young African football talent plying their trade in Europe now, so much so that so many have by their skills broken the racial bias and have been integrated into European national teams. In June this year, Ed Dove writing for go.com did an analysis of Players of African descent who were going to take part in Euro 2012.
In the English Premiership alone this season, thirteen African Nations are represented with six Ivorians and Five Nigerians leading the way. The exploits of Africans in the EPL is well captured in this report published by SuperSports earlier this year on “Africa’s 20 years of EPL excellence” So important are the African players in the EPL that there is palpable worry among coaches and fans of the league on the impending exit of twenty one players who are expected to be named on their national squads of the January 2013 African Cup of Nations.
But the influence is not in England alone. This season there are 57 African players featuringin the UEFA European Champions League
not mentioning many others in the Europa Cup as well as in various domestic leagues all over Europe. African players also ply their trade to great acclaim in Asia and the Middle East. Indeed serious minded club today, is without an African or player of African descent.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this all is that for every one player that leaves the continent to play in Europe or elsewhere, there are five other equally fantastic players here in the continent. Coca-Cola, a huge supporter of football on the continent celebrates all African sportsmen for the sheer joy they’ve brought to many hearts on the continent, and the prided place they, through their exploits, place the continent in the comity of Nations. You give us more than a billion reasons to believe and be proud of this great continent.