A few weeks ago, FIFA.com asked readers to vote on the best current African players. All the big names were there, with Côte d'Ivoire's Didier Drogba neck-and-neck with Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o, Togo's Emmanuel Adebayor, Egypt's Mohamed Aboutreika and Ghana's Michael Essien. A little way behind, a little-known Tunisian striker was coming up on the rails...
Etoile Sportive du Sahel striker Mohamed Amine Chermiti may not be well known to European fans, but he is certainly making a name for himself in his home continent. His career has got off to a flying start, and he is already seen as the future of Tunisian football.
"He isn't yet the greatest, but he will be pretty soon," said a FIFA.com user by the name of sahlus, while BIGTITO reckons that "he will soon be lighting up not just Tunisian football but the whole of Africa. The world will discover his talent at the next CAN". Ghana 2008 starts next January, but before then, the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 will give the youngster a chance to prove his worth on the big stage.
He is lively, an expert dribbler, extremely fast and willing to fight for the ball. The 19-year-old is relatively small for a centre-forward (1.76m), but he has turned his diminutive stature into an advantage. "Some defenders don't take him seriously due to his size," explained his captain Saif Ghezal, "but once their backs are turned, he's off, heading towards the goal. He likes to give his minders the slip." A fact borne out by the number of goals he has scored with his head, putting away his team-mates' crosses.
A number of European clubs have been tracking Chermiti and it seems clear that his days with ESS are numbered. By June 2008, he is expected to be plying his trade on a different continent, which should be perfect timing according to Ghezal. "Amine's still young, he has plenty of time ahead of him. His career has already taken off really quickly but he can still improve. He has great potential.
"This competition is the perfect opportunity for him," the skipper went on. "Not only is he going to come across a different style of football and some excellent defences but also because the eyes of Europe will be upon him. I know that he's already had some offers from up there and now it's down to him to prove how good he is and seize his chance."
The most important chances he will have to seize will be out on the pitch, starting at the National Stadium in Tokyo, where Etoile will face Mexican side Pachuca in the quarter-finals on Sunday. Whoever wins that tie will face Argentinean legends Boca Juniors in the semis - just the kind of challenge Chermiti would relish.