African aces stalking European stage
In shaping the history of African football, the likes of Roger Milla, Rabah Madjer, George Weah, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o have blazed trails for their brethren to follow. And while not all of their successors can attain the heights they reached, a fair few African goalgetters have impressed on the European scene this season, some of them in the continent’s less fashionable leagues.
FIFA.com looks at just some of the African front-men who have spent the last few months making names for themselves across Europe.
Though their newly crowned UEFA Champions League winner Drogba has turned 34, Côte d’Ivoire fans need have no worries about the future of the national team, not with Seydou Doumbia around. Ten years his junior, Doumbia has even managed to outscore Drogba this season, finishing the Russian Premier League season as leading marksman with 28 goals, ahead of luminaries such as Eto’o, Kevin Kuranyi and Alexander Kerzhakov.
Though unable to explain the secret of his success, the CSKA Moscow forward has wisely been seeking counsel from the Chelsea legend, as he revealed in a recent chat with FIFA.com.
“I’ve don't have the recipe for scoring goals, but I’ve always followed the tips and advice given me by my idol, my ‘big brother’, Didier Drogba,” said the Ivorian, who has played club football in his homeland, Japan and Switzerland. “I’m aware that I’ve already travelled a very long road. I derive strength from thinking about my home and past, and it helps me to do my job well every day.”
Two places behind Doumbia in the Russian scoring charts was his compatriot Lacina Traore, who struck 18 goals for Kuban Krasnodar. After learning the ropes with ASEC Mimosas, the lofty Traore, who stands fully 203cm tall, made his mark playing for Romanian outfit CFR Cluj in the Champions League, scoring against Roma.
Slightly smaller in stature than his uncapped countryman, Vitesse Arnhem’s Wilfried Bony has already scored four times in 12 appearances for Côte d’Ivoire, and has raised his profile further with a productive season in the Eredivisie, helping himself to 12 goals.
Speaking to FIFA.com at the end of last year, Bony explained what makes a good finisher: “When you play up front, hard work alone won’t make the difference; luck also plays a part. When you start to score regularly, it’s a real boost to your confidence.”
Confidence is a commodity that the goal poachers of Cameroon and Nigeria have perhaps been lacking in recent months, with both superpowers failing to reach the recent CAF African Cup of Nations. That said, they both have plenty of attacking options at their disposal.
For one, the Indomitable Lions can count on the reliable Herve Tum and Pierre Webo, who found the back of the net 15 times apiece in Turkey this season, the former with Genclerbirligi and the latter with Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi.
Nigeria’s Michael Eneramo collected the same Super Lig haul with Sivasspor, the club he joined last summer from Tunisia’s Esperance. A CAF Champions League winner in 2010, Eneramo is yet further proof of the seemingly inexhaustible talent produced by Africa’s most populous country, while compatriot Promise Isaac, a silver medal winner at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, also impressed in Turkey, scoring 11 times for Manisaspor.
Meanwhile, Brown Ideye, a team-mate of Isaac’s in Beijing and a veteran of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, pocketed a round dozen for Ukrainian heavyweights Dynamo Kiev.
Though Kim Ojo and Babatunde Wusu have less experience, both have been pressing claims for international recognition with their performances in Scandinavia, for Norway’s Brann Bergen and Finland’s JJK Jyvaskyla respectively. Ojo has amassed ten goals or more in each of the last four seasons and kicked off 2012 in much the same vein, with four in nine games, while Wusu totalled 14 in 19 appearances in 2011, since adding three to his career haul in this year’s championship.
Both are well short of the 34 goals Obinna Obiefule helped himself to in beating the all-time championship record in Malta. The Mosta star scored twice as many as the previous season’s leading scorer, fellow-Nigerian Alfred Effiong, and is now looking to try his luck in a more prestigious league.
“The number of goals I’ve scored has made me a hero in Malta, and everyone asks me for my autograph,” said Obiefule, brother to Paul, a Nigeria international between 2004 and 2007. “What I want to do now is play in one of Europe’s big leagues.”
Senegalese sharpshooter Diomansy Kamara has the kind of experience Obiefule would like to get under his belt, having played for Modena in Serie A and in the English Premier League with Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham. Now with Turkish outfit Eskisehirspor, Kamara is just one of four African players to end the season tied second in the scoring chart with 15 goals, behind the insatiable Burak Yilmaz, who collected 33 in all.
The Lions of Teranga are spoilt for choice up front, with Mamadou Niang, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Moussa Sow all established stars, with youngsters Papa Pate Diouf and Mamadou’s brother Papa Niang coming up fast. Diouf’s exploits in Norway earned him a move to Denmark’s FC Copenhagen, where he has teamed up with Dame N’Doye, while the younger of the Niang boys chipped in with 11 goals from midfield for Finnish side FF Jaro last year and has already opened his account this term.
Burkina Faso’s Wilfried Balima has proved even more prolific in his central role for Sheriff Tiraspol, top-scoring in the Moldovan league with 18 goals. The Angolan veteran Freddy scored one less in heading the standings in Cyprus with Omonia Nicosia, though the 33-year-old has now hit 45 in 40 games since arriving at the club.
Last but not least Morocco’s Omar Er Rafik is the king of the strikers in Luxembourg, thanks to his 22 goals for Differdange. “To my mind, you don’t judge a striker by his stats but by his ability to make the right choices in front of goal,” he said. “And that means being aware of when it’s better to pass the ball than to shoot.”