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Why does the West dominate African football?

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Piers Edwards | 11:58 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

Gyan, Ayew, Eto'o, Toure and Drogba have been nominated for the BBC African Footballer of 2010

The BBC shortlist for the 2010 African Footballer of the Year has underlined West Africa's dominance of such awards - because around three-quarters of winners of both the BBC and Confederation of African Football (Caf) accolades hail from the region.

Great names stand out: Jay-Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), Abedi Pele and Michael Essien (Ghana), Ivorian Didier Drogba, and Roger Milla and Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon) to name but a few.

Liberia's George Weah, meanwhile, is the only African to be crowned Fifa World Player of the Year.

Weah also won the BBC award in 1995 and this year, another West African will join him - with Drogba and Eto'o joined on the shortlist by Yaya Toure, Asamoah Gyan and Andre 'Dede' Ayew.

And it's not just a matter of a few talented individuals - look at the results and you will also see that West Africa's footballing pre-eminence is unquestionable:

Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana are Africa's only ever World Cup quarter-finalists; Nigeria and Cameroon are the continent's sole winners of Olympic gold, while Nigeria and Ghana share six Fifa world titles at U17 and U20 level.

So what explains this superiority?

"Such dominance always comes down to genetics and environmental arguments," sports scientist Tim Noakes told me on the line from Cape Town.

"West Africans are bigger and stronger than the rest of the continent - with the world's best sprinters originating from the area."

"East Africans are of course the distance runners - with a much smaller, lighter frame and the southern and northern Africans largely share that build.

"But West Africans' physical attributes would mean nothing unless there's also the right environment and sportsmen train hard."

Football wannabes exert themselves across all Africa but the eastern and southern regions, despite huge enthusiasm for football, still trail far behind.

East Africa has never qualified for a World Cup and its two Nations Cup titles would seem paltry - until compared to southern Africa's solitary win, although former champions Bafana Bafana are one of two World Cup qualifiers from the region.

So how have Egypt - whose players have physiques which are nowhere near as powerful as many West Africans - won seven Nations Cups, three more than anyone else?

"Egyptians compete successfully because they're doing something different," Noakes explains.

He believes they compensate for their lighter frames with superior ball skills, much as players like Lionel Messi, Xavi and Steven Pienaar, to given an African example, are doing.

But interestingly, despite the Nations Cup victories, an Egyptian player has won just one Caf best player title and two for the BBC (the latter differing in that it is voted for by fans rather than national coaches).

A West African, Liberia's George Weah, is the only player from the continent to have been crowned Fifa World Footballer of the Year (in 1995)

In 1998, Morocco's Mustapha Hadji won both - and he is, remarkably, the only non-West African to have won the Caf title in 21 years.

"I don't know if I'm surprised by this," the former Aston Villa, Coventry City and Deportivo La Coruna star told the BBC's African sports programme Fast Track. "Nearly all Egyptians play at home so the media and public elsewhere can seldom watch them."

With impressive facilities and salaries, many Pharaohs, even those as talented as Mohamed Aboutreika, show little willingness to go abroad.

Meanwhile, other nations simply cannot place their players overseas as easily as West Africa, where success for national sides offers opportunities for individuals and lures agents aplenty.

"In Kenya, we only have one Fifa-approved agent and right now he's relocated to Australia," says football official Hussein Swaleh. "We know very few agents - one in France, one in Sweden and one in Qatar - and have none in England because no one's interested in Kenya."

That's because, despite MacDonald Mariga (Inter) and Dennis Oliech (Auxerre) contesting the Uefa Champions League, Kenya's Fifa ranking is below the UK's work permit threshold of 70th place

This makes it hard for an African from such a country, and over 70% of African nations fall outside this stipulation, to win a contract with a top European side, meaning the cycle of failure goes on - while West Africa is awash with both agents and academies.

Agreeing that West Africans are far stronger physically, Hadji believes it's not the only area where the region boasts an advantage.

"Mentally, West Africans are stronger than us and I'm still unsure why North Africans don't have as much hunger or give up quicker than others," he says. "Our skill levels are the same but it's mentality that makes the difference."

There's no doubting the mental fortitude of some West Africans.

Ghana's Sammy Kuffuor, who won the BBC award in 2001, is a good example of a player who maximised his innate skills to reach the top, eventually winning several German titles and a Champions League with Bayern Munich.

"When I joined Bayern (aged 17), I faced a very big challenge as there were five or so German internationals in my position," he tells the BBC. "So I had to get psyched in my mind to reach the top and, as a young boy from Africa, needed to give 150% to get to the first team.

"But I always knew I would make it as I was so determined."

And maybe that determination also came from seeing a fellow Ghanaian like Abedi Pele shining on the world stage.

"The goal of many young children is to be like their country's great heroes," says Noakes.

"And if they've already seen it happen, that makes a massive difference and it is far likelier that it will also happen for them."

To vote for your BBC African Footballer of 2010, click here.


  • Comment number 1.

    Would wealth and religious/political instability not also contribute to this??

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't subscribe to these racial theories.

    Egypt won the last two African Nations Cups, I believe.

    Zinedine Zidane was of Algerian (North African/Arab)ethnic origin. And he happened to be brilliant.

    You've got Chamakh at the moment as well whose star is on the rise. Aboutreika of Egypt is another who is a previous African Player of the Year winner. Generally the best African players will come from Cameroon/Ghana/Ivory Coast/Nigeria etc in the west and Morocco, Algeria, Egypt in the North because this is where the greater populations with organised football, organised leagues and higher level coaching are based.

    It's just a coincidence that the leading individual contenders at the moment are from West Africa. I'm sure the likes of Chamakh will join them in the future.

    Steven Pienaar from South Africa is another outstanding one, again from a country with organised domestic football and coaching.

  • Comment number 3.

    A very well thought article.

    I have often wondered how does Eygpt beat the likes of Cameroon and Nigeria on a regula basis to win the Nations Cup.

    But I suppose the naswer lies with the likes of Argentina and Brazil. Neither are physically big and strong like the West Africans but they have excellent skill on the ball...

    On a similar note, I have often wondered about India and China. They have a population of over 1 billion. Surely there must be enough talent there to win the world cup....

  • Comment number 4.

    Again, at 3. This is nonsense. The West Africans are not 'generally bigger' than North Africans.

    Chamakh, Mido and Zaki for example are not midgets!

    This Tim Noakes is talking absolute rubbish in my opinion.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Never mind all the genetic/geographical stuff going on here.. the real quesiton should be how Yaya Toure ever got nominated for anything.. the guy lumbers about the park slower than a week in jail..

    I have to say the majority of African teams I have seen have all been a fair size and very athletic looking compared to other national teams.. this size issue with regards to West African team may be more down to them having more players in top European teams.. thus having to attain a higher standard of fitness and generally looking more athletic..

  • Comment number 7.

    This is so world cup biased, especially for Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew. Yes they did have a good world cup run, but that is all really. For their clubs, they didnt do much. in 2010, Gyan was playing for Rennes when they were mid table regulars scoring ever so often, and Ayew was playing in ligue 2.

    i dont understand why Yaya Toure is even shortlisted, im pretty sure he didnt do anything out of the ordinary, that he didnt do in seasons before.

    Drogba and Eto'o did have productive years, but Eto'o was no where as lethal as he is now.

    And why arent their any players that are playing in Africa shortlisted like last year with Tresor Mputu. Like Michael Eneramo, or anybody from TP Mazembe. They did just recently win the Champions League.

    Its like no one bothered to actually look

  • Comment number 8.

    And last time i checked the North dominated African football, Egypt made history, and were not even recognized for it.

  • Comment number 9.

    A North African (Chamakh) has had a better year than Yaya Toure. He was better at Bourdeaux than Yaya was at his last season at Barca, and Chamakh has been far better for Arsenal so far this season, being one of the most dangerous strikers in the PL. Yaya didn't play for Barca, had a bad WC and has been below average with City. It's only because he's now the highest paid player in PL, it's given him a status.

    Pienaar and Kevin Prince Boateng have also done well. And where is Essien?

    Can't even comment on this Ayew fellow because never heard of him, but I think you have to play in a top league to be considered for such an award. Gyan is currently proving he's a quality player so I wouldn't say he's totally undeserving of a place.

    Either way, I think it should be Drogba, but it'll probably be Eto'o because of his scoring form lately and how he won the treble in Italy with Inter.

  • Comment number 10.

    Can't say for certain, but I don't believe Cameroon is considered a West African state, in Africa at least. I believe it's referred to as a Central African state. It certainly isn't a member of The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), the member states being Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone, and that is the basis by which Africans normally measure the countries that qualify as Western African.

  • Comment number 11.

    Just checked it, so can say wih greater certainty: Cameroon is a founding member of Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) along with Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, so probably can't be classified as a Western African nation. Their currecny is also the Central Africa CFA franc.

  • Comment number 12.

    Cameroun is NOT a West African Country it belongs to Central Africa.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you for the wonderful piece. If you study the effect of colonization, you will see that colonization, modernization and civilization brought good things to West Africa. Also, if you look at Sub sahara Africa, West Africa has positively developed more than the rest. Football has cut through all tribes, divisions and geographical boundaries. The only blemish Colonization left was regionalism, ethnicism and divisions. But, it is high time West Africa and the whole of African govenments rise up above these societal ills left by the colonial masters.

  • Comment number 14.

    And while 'Someone Less Imaginative Stole My Username' is right to question the oversimplification of Mr Noakes' theory (and gave three fine examples of solidly built Northern Africans to back up his argument) I think his point was 'bigger' not 'taller', and while I still agree that is is a generalisation, it is one with 'some' evidence to back it up. Using some of 'Someone Less Imaginative's...' examples, Zidan, Zaki, Aboutrika and Fathalla are roughly the same height as Nigeria's Yakubu. Their respective weights are: 72kg, 75kg, 79kg, 70kg and 83kg for the Yak. Chamakh and Mido are the same height as Mikel and Drogba (and an inch shorter than Yaya Toure) and their respective weights are 78kg, 83kg, 86kg, 91kg and 90kg. So, maybe not 'taller', but 'maybe' bigger on the whole...

  • Comment number 15.

    Does size matter in football? Not sure. Maybe, to a certain extent. I watched Japan v Cameroon and Japan v Denmark during the last WC, and, to me, looked like size might actually be a disadvantage if you are on the bigger side. How else does one explain Brazil's success. The boys from Brazil are on the smaller side when compared to their counterparts from Nigeria, for example. Also, I watched England getting a lesson from France the other night. Well, that France side had three North Africans in it - Nasri, Benzema and Rami. Surely, the England boys, who are picked for size, should have rolled over these, right? Nope.
    If size was the determinant in sucess in football, these countries would have kept the WC for good - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Nigeria, Senegal, Tonga, Jamaica etc, not Brazil.

  • Comment number 16.

    The most important things in football is good organisation, money and good coaching.Any team can achieve good results if those basic requirements are in place. For example DRC Congo (1974 African champions) dorminated African football in the seventies because huge sums of money were pumped into football. By the way Ghananian players are no diffent from the average African players in terms of physique but good coaching has propelled Ghana to higher levels over the years.

  • Comment number 17.

    I forgot Essien, a 'Hulk' at 86kg, despite being only 5'9 and a half...

  • Comment number 18.

    Yaya Toure shortlisted. Is that some sort of joke or did they confuse it for most highly paid African of the year.

    In terms of year round performance has to be Drog but if you want to focus on the World Cup Gyan is your man.

  • Comment number 19.

    For Christ sake! Why should CAF still insist on shorlisting European based players for African football award?
    Messi has never been shortlisted for South American football award. What is the point of CAF in Africa if charity does not begin at home. Maybe CAF's head office should re-located to London.

  • Comment number 20.

    Yaya Toure as best african player of the year is clearly a joke. It surely has to be either an egyptian for winning the African Cup of Nations again (and well away from the desert states), or Eto'o for still being so good after so many years, or someone from the Ghana side.

    I'm not an expert on Africa, having only been to southern Africa, but I imagine the greater success of Western Africans in the European leagues and their consequent desire to give something back to their home communities in the form of football academies that feed and home the lucky students, plus the greater presence of football scouts in a fertile breeding ground, has created conditions for an upwards spiral of success. An interesting question would be why South Africa doesn't have so much success with one of the biggest economies on the continent? Is it a lack of local regional competitors and subsequent rivalries to push their government into action? Will the World Cup windfall make a difference? Could it fund academies with a greater focus on skills than on athleticism?

    The Brazil team has been getting taller and stronger generation by generation, due to clubs and coaches picking athletes to compete with Europe, ahead of the smaller but more skillful players. And look what happened; they lost their way with a midfield of willing ballwinners and game breakers rather than playmakers, relying on setpieces and counter-attacks (albeit very successfully in the latter). Argentina stuck to their guns, as did Spain. Japan played the ball on the floor and brushed aside Denmark. Skills matter above all, skills AND size are a bonus.

  • Comment number 21.

    First up and just to clarify, Egypt have won the last three Nations Cup while Mohamed Aboutreika has never won the CAF African Footballer of the Year award - which is perhaps a legacy of his failure to move overseas. He did finish second behind Emmanuel Adebayor in 2008, a year when he was voted Africa's best by the BBC's audience. For what it's worth, I'd have loved to see him play outside in Europe as I suspect not too many football fans in this part of the world have ever seen his terrific ability.

  • Comment number 22.

    The answer to the reason why Egypt has won more cup of nations than any country; is simple CAF headquarters, so is Brazil because of FIFA headquarters. Also Cameroon with Issa Hayatou. I'm not saying these countries got favors’, the presence of these institutions/personalities act as impetus for these countries to excel in the games.

  • Comment number 23.

    As for Cameroon not being part of West Africa, I knew I’d get into trouble for this! Tehcnically, yes, it is part of Central Africa but it does of course lie at the junction of West and Central Africa, with even the Encylopaedia Britannica describing it – rightly or wrongly – as Western African. However, the point I was trying to make is there’s a rich seam of football talent lying along the West African coast – and simply asking why it dominates.

    That said, there has to be a rider which is of course that North African sides have dominated the continental club game. This is regularly put down to, amongst others, generally-superior facilities, salaries (ones which are, importantly, paid on time), administration and the fact that the region's best players have often stayed at home.

    As for whether size really matters, any fan of Spain would surely tell you it doesn’t. However, it’s easier to knock someone like Mustapha Hadji off the ball than a Didier Drogba say, as even the Moroccan admits: “While in England I tried to be as strong as a Drogba but simply wasn’t, so I constantly tried to improve myself as technical quality is not enough in the UK. It was easier for me to play in Spain.”

  • Comment number 24.

    Egyptian players with the exception of a few players cannot survive playing overseas. Year after year I hear of Egyptian clubs banning their players from transferring clubs, both domestically and internationally. The Egyptian media has a field day with these conflicts between clubs and their players. unfortunately, there is a high level of unprofessionalism with Egyptian players, example Amr Zaki with Wigan, Mido with his numerous clubs, Essam el Hadary with fc sion, and most recently, Emad Moteab with Anderlecht. But i think that the key to our current dominance has to do with the fact that Egyptian players are playing in africa, they are used to the physicality and pace of african football, not like the players playing abroad. i wouldn't say its Aboutreika's "failure" to play overseas. its that he never wanted to play abroad, and that Ahly would make his transfer a nightmare

  • Comment number 25.

    I ve also developed the suspicion that CAF has been biased more towards black africans then arab africans, wonder if anyone else has noticed this

  • Comment number 26.

    Always be carefull of people who attribute athletic qualities to genetics, borders on racism if you ask me.

  • Comment number 27.

    West Africans do make it because they are generally stronger and more athletic than their counterparts in the rest of Africa. Obviously in a team this attribute on its own does not make them better but it has allowed players from that region to get a foothold in the European leagues in the positions or teams where these attributes are useful.

    As well as advancing their tactical awareness this exposure encourages not only scouts to focus on players in these areas, the income generated by the European leagues encourages locally based agents to invest in uncovering more talent there. Scouts and agents provide the grassroots exposure that top clubs rely on.

    Then you add this to a high density of populous nations and you have a recipe for developing an infrastructure for tapping into the talent with regularity.

    Then add to that a willingness for national teams to use European coaches (at least compared to North African nations) and this makes the relationship closer still.

    The genetic (dietary?) plot thickens further when you consider the relative success of players from a Carribean background in Europe who also have West African roots.

  • Comment number 28.

    @rochel and plier edward:
    cameroun is a central african state in theory and probably 4 political reasons. I seem to rmemba them taking Nigeria to the international court of justice over territory and Nigeria is a west african state on all sides, so on the map, cameroun is in west africa.

  • Comment number 29.

    Cameroon is in West Africa to all intents and purposes and fits the general argument put here. Economically it probably relies more on its West African neighbours and so its infrastructure and population will be genetically more aligned. As will its diet.

  • Comment number 30.

    Roverontour says some of the southern african economies are some of the biggest on the continent, i the republic of south africa which has the continent leading economy the next biggest economies are egypt (north africa) and nigeria (west africa)....zimbabwe is in southern africa by the way and we all know how difficult (cough cough) it is to be a billionaire in that place.
    now on to the football, yaya toure on the shortlist is laughable at best...and why isn't enyeama, nigeria's goalie in the shortlist or is it limited only to outfield players? enyeama's exploits at the world cup and with his club both domestically in israel and in the champion's league is surely worthy of commendation now isn't it? how many goalies score penalties on a regular basis and despite their teams losing go on to be named man of the match in 2 world cup games back to back?
    as someone else rightly stated what about players playing in africa, why are they not considered for these awards? TP mazembe's players who won the CAF champions league last year and are probably gonna win it again this year and eneramo come into mind here...just my 2 cents

  • Comment number 31.

    Comment #2, by Someone more imaginative stole my name, hit it, absolutely, right on the head. The dominance of West African players lies not in some inherent genetic advantages, sure it might help in football, but Football's biggest stars are absolute waifs in terms of physicality: Fabregas, Eto, Xavi, Iniesta, Nasri, Modric, Pedro, Arshavin. These racialist theories for West African's dominance of continental awards is downright lazy when more pressing factors to their success is mentioned and promptly dismissed by the blogger. The fact that West African's have a more extensive network of contacts to football powerhouses in Europe and abroad, including football backwaters such as: India, Vietnam, East Asian in general; the fact that West Africans have football as the suffocating and overwhelmingly popular sports of choice while Other regions in Africa are obsessed with more than one sports; The fact that football is better organized and structured in West Africa than in all other parts of Africa except North Africa; The fact that West Africans, due to economic pressure, look abroad to make a living in football unlike the pampered North African footballer all goes a long way to sufficiently and justifiably explaining West Africa's dominance of football than your racist at worst and at best lazy explanation for this dominance.

  • Comment number 32.

    Re: comment 26.

    Whys it racist? Other physical attributes can depend on where you come from, such as skin colour, so why not build and athleticism? Not saying I agree with it, but to shout racism is slightly over the top.

  • Comment number 33.

    Eto'o should win this by a distance. Another Champions League win, back to his favourite position under Benitez and the best striker in the world.

  • Comment number 34.

    #31, You cannot deny West African's size is a major factor in their success. Football is a contact sport so size will help, as it does in any other contact sport. If I was a footballer with raw talent I know I'd rather be big than small. There is nothing racist about this observation as others imply. I'd compare this to Tongans, Samoans and Fijians in rugby union....their natural size certainly helps their game. If I might add most of Africa's citizens live in West Africa so they have a bigger pool to choose from. I don't believe football is better organised in West Africa, there are just more 'push factors' putting young poor kids in all or nothing situations.

  • Comment number 35.

    Cameroon is both a Central and West African country...Linguistically its mostly central but, there is a huge West African influence due to migration for over 1000 years....

    With regard to African football and the North vs. West etc etc.... Both are good but, even when North wins West African countries take second and 3rd. The wins in these final games are usually 1:0 wins etc etc but, overall West Africa has won more... With the world cup West Africa takes most of the spots...

    In the end both regions are solid and, more investment is need in Central and Eastern African to promote football there...

  • Comment number 36.

    Lastly what conclusions can be drawn from the FIFA list of world's top players.... In the end who knows...

    Xabi Alonso (Spain), - Iberian peninsula
    Daniel Alves (Brazil), West/central Africa + Iberian Peninsula
    Iker Casillas (Spain), Iberian Peninsula
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Iberian Peninsula
    Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), West Africa
    Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) West/Central Africa
    Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Iberian Peninsula
    Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Iberian Peninsula
    Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), West Africa
    Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Iberian Peninsula
    Júlio César (Brazil), Iberian Peninsula
    Miroslav Klose (Germany), Northern Europe
    Philipp Lahm (Germany), Northern Europe
    Maicon (Brazil), West/Central Africa
    Lionel Messi (Argentina), Iberian Peninsula, Italian Peninsula
    Thomas Müller (Germany), Northern Europe
    Mesut Özil (Germany), Southern Europe
    Carles Puyol (Spain), Iberian Peninsula
    Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Northern Europe
    Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Northern Europe
    Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Northern Europe
    David Villa (Spain) Iberian Peninsula
    Xavi (Spain). Iberian Peninsula

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Ha when I saw the link to this page I thought 'blimey Taribo West is still playing!?!?'

  • Comment number 39.

    I think I agree with your analysis, they're great and highly interesting. However, there's one thing I want to comment on, on this particular post. I think Egypt have been dominating the CAF cup (Nations Cup) because they largely play together almost their entire playing period. This give them more experience and know each other well. To support my point, just look at the early years of CAF Cup competition where it's dominated by both Ghana and Egypt. At the time, almost all the entire players of Ghana were playing in Ghana and it helped them alot. Another point that have left Egypt dominance in Nations cup, is money. The Egypt's league have considerable worth and as such all their players are playing domestically. I said this, because Egypt have dominated the Nations cup not because their skills are far better than the rest of the continent, but largely because they've manage to organized their league very well and there's money too.

  • Comment number 40.

    @ 37;

    What makes you say Africa is a "black" continent? Isn't that racist? Africa is the home to many people of many races, black, white, asian, mixed, you name it. Calling it a "black" continent is either being blatantly racist, being very very ignorant or downright idiocy and stupidity. You choose which one.

  • Comment number 41.

    Totally disagree with the article.
    Stick with the facts rather than comparing North and West African physicality and mentality.

    And the facts are that Egypt have won the Africa Cup of Nations 7 times, 3 times more than any other nation and have won the least three consecutively.

    Even in African club competition, since 1981, 22 clubs from North Africa have won the African champions league, only 5 West African teams have won it.

    Don't compare North and West African players based on a few stand out players playing in Europe. The only reason why there are no Egyptian players up for BBC African player of the year is because barely any Egyptians like playing abroad, the only ones i can think of are M. Zidan at Borssia Dortmund, El Saka at Konyaspor and Almuhammedi at Sunderland.

    Also Egypt beat West african sides on a regular basis, they beat Ivory coast in 2006, in the group stage and in the final, in 2008 they beat cameroon twice and ivoy coast 4 1 in the semis. In 2010 they beat camerooon again, nigeria and ghana in the final. And they're anked 10th in the world.

  • Comment number 42.

    It may be true that physique may be one of the facrors that is playing a part in West Africa's "dominance" in African football. But it is certainly not a top factor as some may think. I think it is the Francaphone countries(Nigria, Ghana are the exception) which really dominates football. The french countries of West Africa and North Africa had access to organized football in France, before and after independence. I think that is what has given them the edge in national team football, not the club football though. Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria used to dominated in the 70's and mid 80's. I thought the situation in Algeria did not help their football. It has regressed a lot since the days of Lakdar. But now the pendulum has swung to the West. The North club footbal is still the best organize in Africa(South Africa clubs are very organized). West Africa club football is a bit disorganized still. So they have to depend on the foreign legion to pull them over the top. If The West did not have access to France, Belgium, they would not be so good.

  • Comment number 43.

    If west Africa is considered as one region then, it is superior to North Africa as a region.

    Looking at the African cup of nations after 1960... Since before that most African countries were still colonies or did not participate and, the fact that Egypt participated as the United Arab republic in 1959 etc etc ...

    Egypt has won it 5 legitimate times
    Ghana 4
    Cameroon 4
    Nigeria 2

    Ghana has been to the final 8 times

    Egypt 6 times( I subtracted pre 1960)

    I think it is particular countries and, not the region as a whole...

    For example Egypt has been very good while the rest of North Africa minus Libya have just been okay...

    Ghana, Nigeria and, Cameroon have been good while the rest have just been okay....

    Nigeria has been to the final 6 times

    Cameroon has been to the final 6 times...

    In the end, I think each country should be looked at on its own merits...

    Like Egypt vs. Ghana
    or Nigeria vs. Ghana
    or, Ghana vs. Cameroon

    Cameroon vs. Egypt

  • Comment number 44.

    I can see the point of the piece, and took from it more that Eastern African football is poor rather than a competition between West and North. When looked at economically some of the poorest countries, and those with the some of the lowest scores on the H.D.I., are those located in East Africa, hence no money to put into any sort of grass roots football.

    The only thing that does puzzle me about African football and especially Egypt, is why in the Africa Cup of Nations do Egypt beat teams like Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon etc. and I use those countries specifically as an example because they are the West African "Dominant" teams who qualified to play in South Africa, and Egypt failed to reach the finals?

    And it definitely has nothing to do with North Africa as Morocco has reached the finals 3 more times than Egypt has, and Algeria made it to 2010.

  • Comment number 45.

    I agree with the commentators who questioned inclusion of players who play outside Africa in club football...

    Secondly, the main difference between West Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa is connection to Western countries. Just look at the numbers of West Africans overseas compared to the rest of the continent (general population of immigrants).

    Thirdly, in East Africa, it is very difficult for a player at the peak of their playing careers to be allowed to transfer out of Africa.

    Fourth, there is less organized football in East Africa: really gifted players with options for better lives outside soccer would rather pursue those options instead of soccer. Personally I know a person who was as skilled as or better than Zinedine Zidane but who pursued non-footballing career. They are plenty of those.

  • Comment number 46.

    One has to be pretty naive to not acknowledge the role that genetics plays in sports - and there is nothing racist about that. It's just reality: when was the last time a non-West African athlete won the men's 100M at the All African Games? It was 1991 - and it was a blip, as West Africans have won the discipline every other time before and since then.
    Sprinting and football have similar physical demands, and in Africa, West Africans meet these demands best of all. It surely can be no accident that the disorganised football associations of West Africa - which are no less corrupt than their East African sister associations - nevertheless produce such fine footballers.
    Indeed, the very many and very dominant Black European football players are mostly of West African descent, either through naturalization as citizens (e.g. most of the French football team), or as descendants of West African slaves from the Caribbean (e.g. the Black players in England's national team). Similarly, Brazil's football is heavily Black - and it needs no re-telling that these players are also the descendants of West Africans.
    Unfortunately (or luckily, if you are not African), most African football is woefully disorganised (association management, facilities, scouting, coaching, financial backing, legal frameworks, etc). Indeed, the rot extends beyond just football, and is to be seen in virtually every team sport in Africa (team sports need lots of coordination and good management, as opposed to individual pursuits like athletics). North African football is very well-organised compared to sub-Saharan football associations, and it is therefore little surprise that Egypt have done so well. South Africa is (was?) very well-organised too, and this must surely be a contributing factor to their CAN win as well as their subsequent trips to the World Cup.
    Perhaps the sorry state of African football is best seen in Africa's best players, who shine for their European club teams but cannot go very far with their national teams. This, sadly, is largely a reflection of Africa itself: lots of promise and potential, and lots of fine individual performances here and there, but an absolute inability to gel as a team. As an African myself, I see it every time I visit any African country.

  • Comment number 47.

    There is always a risk in linking race (or geographic origin) to athletic and even academic achievement.. Let's take the argument of genetic and its links to football to its logical conclusion. Statistics will tell me that you have to be of white European stock to be the best in football. Sorrry West and North Africans, no point arguing over the minor places..
    Linking sporting ability to genetics is absurd! Just look at how diverse the genetics of the two best players of the last 30 years. Maradona - of native Argentinain Indian stock, and Zidane - of Algerian Arab stock. There you have it. What do these have in common apart from their love for football?

  • Comment number 48.

    It's unfair that they remove my comment. My English is struggling, I was sitting and doing that comment for a while, I mean it took my time, and now, they just remove it.
    Anyway African football players are more powerful than European.

  • Comment number 49.

    I happen to have had this same conversation with a friend the other day and you have captured all that went on in our conversation except one omission.
    This may come to you as a surprise but colonialism is a major factor so many years after African states became independent. With the exception of Ghana, Egypt and George Weah in your artical all the countries which have produced winners of the BBC award were colonized by France. It is a historical fact that the French policy on colonies was assimilation rather than domination which was practiced by the British.
    All those African players who have made a mark in big European leagues did so via the french league because the french have always been accommodative of their former subjects than the British.
    In the early 80's English (if my memory serves me well, Nottingham Forest) teams visiting Kenya would loose matches against the big teams of Gor Mahia and AFC leopards and no player found their way to the English league.
    Even today as the French approach African players playing in league 1 with offers of citizenship, the British are denying MacDonald Mariga an opportunity to play for Man City because Kenya is ranked below 70 by Fifa.
    During the world cup in Germany, when all the African teams had been eliminated, a friend remarked that there was one that remained - France. At that point France was playing with more players of African origin than Angola was with white players!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Good blog Piers, point of correction. Roger Milla & "My" current best striker in the world Samuel Eto"fils are from east Africa. Cameroon is not in west Africa.

  • Comment number 51.

    I think the title is not fair... who won the last 3 African cups? the Egyptian players... who beated Italy and close match with Brazil? the Egyptian players...who just beated australia 3/0? the Egyptian players...who scored 10 goals in his first appearance English premiere league? Egyptian Amr Zaki....who is the talented player of burrusia dortumand? egyptian M.Zidan... Mido,Muhammadi, Abutreika and Ahmed Hassan are in the list too...I also admire north africa players like chamakh...Samuel Eto is my favorite...We should vote for the talented players in the least creative atmosphere and so playing in Europe is not a privilege over local players..

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm afraid I disagree with many of the points given.
    With regards to being bigger and more physical, Algeria proved that was nonsense in the WC and ACN where, especially in the ACN, Algeria had more than half their squad towering over the african competitors they played against. Did you see Algeria vs. Ivory Coast? The only Ivorian player I remember seeing bigger than all the Algerian players was Yaya Toure. Next to Bougherra and Halliche, Drogba and Gervinho looked small. Next to Yebda, Yaya Toure looked nowhere near as tall as he usually did at Barca. Next to Ghezzal, Toure looked diminuitive. Sure, they're not all giants, but they managed to hold their own in that physical contest. Also, when you look at the likes of Zidan, Al Muhammadi, Shikabala, Taarabt, Ziani, Belhadj, Ghezzal, Matmour and Meghni, you can't exactly call them slow can you?

    So that throws the genetic idea out of the window.

    Another point is that it's fair to say that the North African nations are all more technically adept at playing football than their subsaharan counterparts. Their style of play is completely different and they adopt a more european style of play. When you see players lik Aboutrika, Hadji, Ziani, Meghni, Chikhaoui and Darragi, it really isn't hard to believe that these are the same people that the likes of Khedira, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa and of course Zidane originated from. Sure, we don't win in most of the physical battles, but we do win in the technical battles. We pass better, our tactical approach is better.

    That isn't to say that all subsaharan teams are subpar in terms of tactical football, Ghana is a clear example of that, with good training, subsaharan teams can match the north african teams in the tactical aspect of the game.

  • Comment number 53.

    And does it matter that some of the best ever African footballers, Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi, are Algerian, and Moustapaha Hadji is Moroccan?

  • Comment number 54.

    Please, arguing Cameroon are in East Africa has got to be the most ridiculous statement. They may lie in Central Africa in terms of administration and affiliated bodies, but anyone who can see can see geographically they are in west Africa.. they are neighbours with Nigeria for goodness sake, that says it all. A distance of a few hundred meters separating the two countries' peoples will not make their genetic coding any different because administratively one is a member of this body of west African state while one belongs to a different body in central Africa. It's the geography that matters here, not political boundaries. They have similar diets.

    Having said that west Africans are more stronger and athletic than the rest of their African counterparts. Anyone from Africa knows this. It's not just in football where they excell; they are also good at short sprints for similar reasons and boxing to a certain extent. North Africans have technique, yes, but I would like to believe if they had the same energy levels as their western counterparts they would even be better. While there has been one or two good players from other parts of Africa, the majority have come from west Africa. Anyway, the same argument that applies to as why east Africans are good at marathons applies to west Africans in football.

    The only reason north African countries dominate the local champions league is because of better administration and they retain most of their players while west Africans all play abroad. This will go on to ne reflected at tournaments like African nations tournaments, where they will use the knowledge of their opponents and are more suited to the style of play there than say someone who came to Europe at age of 16. Generally west Africans will ne ok but for this reason they may be pipped by the north Africans. Nut when it comes to world cups the roles are reversed, why? Because the style and demands are different, suitinf the west Africans more as they are more used to them than the rest of Africa.

  • Comment number 55.

    does not really matter who is bigger or not.
    i believe west africans are doing well due to socio-economic and political settings. i stand for correction but i believe the people of the sub-region have the most immigrants in countries of europe where football is extremely popular. they didn't find themselves there because of fooball though but because of social, economic and political uphevals. west africans realised football as an economic emancipator way back however as noted, aboutrika, though a great footballer was not interested in going out of his country. believe me a ghanaian player with half aboutrika's quality will be long gone in some european country.remember when the sub region was full of coups and other social upheavals(as against the nothern and southern africa) football was the only thing the people could hold on to.
    football just means a lot to west africans and no wonder they seem to be dominating.
    in ghana nearly all the heads of state since independence have been keen football enthusiats. they are as below
    k.Nkruma (the architect behind formation of black stars)
    I,K Acheampong-(architect behind ghana hosting and winning 1978 CAN)
    j.j. Rawlings
    j.k.Kuffour(one time chief executive of kotoko)
    j,a. Mills (one time chief executive of hearts of oak)

  • Comment number 56.

    Lots of typos in my earlier post, apologies, using my phone whose keyboard isn't the biggest. I was saying there has got to be a reason why west African teams fare better at world tournaments than north Africans, yet when it comes to African championships the honours are even, except maybe at club level where the north Africans just shade it. In my opinion, size and strength play a part. The west Africans do well in almost any league they go to because of this, while the majority of north Africans struggle despite doing well in their home leagues.

    Good blog, facts support this theory.

  • Comment number 57.

    The West African advantage can be traced to dietary origins. The high dose of carbohydrate in the equatorial staple - Fufu - definitely, is responsible for the stealthy look of people from this region. While the Massiah of Kenya and other East African regions drink blood and eat kebabs, the west Africans indulge in feasts of high energy diets.

    There also divisions withing West Africa people. The more arabic nothern fringe of the region, is composed of the same Massiah-Fulani-Hausa heritage. It is however fair to conclude that, all the mentioned football maestros are of Congo-Bantu West Africa - a genetic dimension. Cameroon, though geographically not West Africa, shares these common traits.

  • Comment number 58.

    With all respect to those choose this shortlist of players as the best in Africa yet how come a nation like Egypt who won the ACN for a 3rd successive time making global history is not represented by atleast one player in that list when they have the likes of Zidan, Gedo and Treka on their side?!! how come Ayew and Yaya Toure are on that list instead of having Gedo or Zidan?!! something doesn’t smell right there and i feel Egyptians were deliberately excluded from this list for one reason that im unaware of and hope that someone fair with a decent view could enlighten me !!

  • Comment number 59.

    No Egyptian players are on the list because, doing well at a 2 week tournament and doing nothing at the world cup aka not qualifying or at club level excluded all Egyptian players...

    Egypt is good because of the team game not because of individual talent... Egypt has no individually brilliant player when compared to even Morocco who have great individual players but, a bad team...

  • Comment number 60.

    Thanks Kwame for your input in the current debate.
    I have beeb following African football for a long period of time than most pundits and posters here can imagine.

    Piers Edwards's analyses are spot on both in terms of factual accuracy or relativity. The first teams to win all the continental club competitions emanate from the West Africa Region. Their names are
    Oryx de Douala (Cameroon) - 1965 African Champions' League
    Tonnerre de Yaoundé (Cameroon) - 1975 (African Clubs Cup Winners' Cup)
    Shooting Stars of Ibadan (Nigeria) - 1985? (CAF Cup).

    Six of the ten Regions in Cameroon have more ethnic and cultural links with West Africa than the Central Africa Region. Geographically speaking, Cameroon is a West African country. The three Northern Regions in Cameroon are closer to their Hausa and Fulani brothers in Nigeria than to the rest of Cameroon. The two regions that are English-speaking have a lot in common with their Nigerian neigbours. The same statement is true of the Western Region of Cameroon. A Geogrpaher by training, I hope that this clears up the matter.

    Turning to the dominance of football in Africa by the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Senegal, a Kenyan poster here hit the nail on the head. France has had an important role in this. Take a look at English PL clubs and the players of African descent in them. Most if not all of them had to prove their worth in France, Belgium and Portugal before being taken on by English clubs. The French, Belgians, Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards have either set football academies in Africa or go looking for players there. Abedi Pelé, Essien and a host of English-speaking Africans came to Europe via the French connection.

    Egypt are no doubt a great footballing nation in Africa but their pedigree in terms of world football lags behind Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. How many times have a North African side won the All Africa Games football tournament? Thrice I would say. Cameroon alone has won it four times and the last three times consecutively. Pure talent and physical attributes account for success at this level. FIFA rankings are not always a reliable estimate of the progress made by African footballing nations. In the current qualifiers for the ACN, Egypt drew at home with Sierra Leone and were beaten away by unfancied Niger. Morocco could only draw with a lowly-placed Central African Republic who in turn beat Algeria in Bangui by 2 - 0. Never mind, Gabon who have beaten both Morocco and Algeria in their own backyards.

    We need to put facts, commonsense and any resulting analyses into perspective rather than advance arguments based on sentiments. Zidane was considered too slow to play for Algeria in the mid 1990s yet he became a World Class player. George Weah never lived to play in a WC because he came from Liberia. Yet he was just as great a player like Zidane. Which brings me back to the 1974 WC where a Scottish commentator dubbed, Zaire, the darkies who couldn't play football. What a coincidence that more than half of the Brail squad was made of players of African descent?

  • Comment number 61.

    The history of African football in North Africa, which enabled them to get organized and qualify for the early international competitions.
    This persisted for awhile, until the West Africans got involved initially through age-grade competitions and the larger pool of talents has sustained them despite poor management.

    For example, i can name 3 strong Nigerian squad with talents
    In short a combination of talent and opportunity to showcase it.

  • Comment number 62.

    Therry Henry and David Beckham will never win European football player award no matter how they perform for their respective clubs in the States. Even if they win both the world and European cup with with their respective countries. (England and France) The so called African stars being mention around should win the european footballer award where they play their football and stop depriving the african based players their rightful right.

    All respect to George Weah!

  • Comment number 63.

    Watching Fulham/Man City. I notice that apart from the expected plethora of wooly gloves (well it is below 15 degrees C), Toure and Tevez are wearing scarves. What next? Balaclavas? Fur-lined boots? Ski jackets?

  • Comment number 64.

    one good reason that comes to mind,Africans frm the north usually become content with little sucess, in the west, its always about how rich and famous u r, so they keep fighting.
    thats why despite their high tempo in Africa, egyptian players just stay home and enjoin their little sucess

  • Comment number 65.

    why are you conducting this poll in the first place look after your own back yard and let the africans look after their own

  • Comment number 66.

    Though this blog explores various theories, at the heart of the dominance is the exposure to European football by playing in the various leagues in Europe. The West Africans were more adventurous and ventured outside their borders earlier. The Franco-phones had an advantage in that the work permit requirements (not just for footballers) were not so tight. So it was easier for the French-speaking Africans to enter into Europe through France. In addition the French equivalent of the English commonwealth was a more fraternal society, hence France continues to have overseas territories to this day. A look at the composition French WC winning team says it all. Back on the African continent even the very earliest successes by Anglo-phone players in England, are those that came from either France or Germany (Okocha, Yeboah etc.). While the Egyptians play well on the continent but have difficulty adjusting abroad (Mido etc.). By pointing out that the Two Kenyans playing in the Champions League are unable to play in England says it all. It is instructive to note that Okocha was not scouted out of Nigeria. Okocha was already in Europe when somehow Eintracht Frankfaut got hold of him, and as they say the rest is history.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think the West region boasts more 'dominant' footballing nations such as Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. Personally, I would vote for Samuel Eto, as I think he is just class - look at his performances this season when Diego Milito has been injured, score goals for fun. Forget Didier its all about Samuel!

  • Comment number 68.

    Sorry for the silence but was away over the weekend.

    Leye (30) - in answer to your question, all African footballers are considered for the BBC award, including goalkeepers and players based in Africa itself. For whatever reason, Enyeama didn't make the cut for those who compiled the lists nor did those based on the continent. However, both Aboutreika (2008) and Mohamed Barakat (2005) have recently won the BBC award while playing at home in Egypt.

  • Comment number 69.

    Prompted by Armchair Coach's comments on East Africa - some countries, such as Kenya, prohibit dual nationality, making it more difficult for a youngster to gain an initial foothold in Europe. Many other Africans, including a few on the shortlist (Drogba, Ayew, Eto'o), hold both African and European passports, so easing their entry into the game.

  • Comment number 70.

    Piers,thanks for coming back on the comments from a number of posters here.

    Success breeds success. I pointed out in my last outing here that football clubs from the Western part of Africa (that is the countries with coastlines on the Gulf of Guinea) were the first to win continental competitions within the above-mentioned genres).

    Players from this part of Africa like elsewhere in the continent combine skill, know-how and physical attributes to impact on results of football matches. Have a close look at the AWC. Nigeria have dominated the competition bar, 2008 when Equatorial Guinea won it. Most of the players of the female Equatorial Guinea national squad, come from countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Ivory Coast. Little wonder that the fastest men and women in Africa in terms of sprinting emanate from the same region.

    I would disagree with the view that European exposure alone has led to excellent performances of countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast. With the exception of Nigeria, the academy system in these countries sometimes with minimal support from European clubs has done the trick. When Cameroon came to the fore during the mid-80s and ealry 90s, most of the players in the national team were playing at home. The same comment applies to the Ivory Coast squad that won the 1992 ACN. North Africans set the ball rolling, with Algeria beating West Germany and Chile during the 1982 WC. Bar poor officialting, the Cameroon team that featured honourably during that same WC were on course for the group of 16 in their first appearance at the global stage.

    I will agree with you as a football pundit that the organisational structure and forward planning initiated by European coaches have been the catalyst that African countries needed to become a force that the rest of the world can reckon with. "A can do" attitude came to the fore in West Africa when youngsters saw their compatriots performing well in the French and Portuguese leagues during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

    The likes of Eusebio, La Coruna, Ibrahim Sunday,Eugene Njo Lea, Ben Barka, Noureddine Kourichi, Salif Domingo Keita, Jojo Yebga, Roger Milla, Jules Bocandé, Stephen Keshi, Kalusha Bwalya, Thomas Nkono, Joseph-Antoine Bell, Rabah Madjer, Tunji Banjo, John Chediozie, Abedi Pelé, George Opong Weah and Charles Musonda made young footballers in the four corners of Africa realise that they could hold their own at home and abroad.

    All said and done, the reaction generated by your blog on this occasion is a breath of fresh air. It's been a while since I was party to constructive criticism of the type advanced by bloggers on the staples of good football and the underlying premises for this.

  • Comment number 71.

    I wouldn't say west africa dominates at all !
    The north african arab countries (esp egypt) do better in the african nations cup, and in african club competitions.
    The west africans tend to impress more in the WC, as I think their style of play is more difficult for the europeans/s americans to deal with. The north africans are more technical, less physical in my opinion..and play at a slower tempo..european and s american nations tend to deal with this better than the more physical style of the west africans

  • Comment number 72.

    @ Pekster11

    Your account of the dominance of North African national and club sides in continental matters makes interesting reading. I agree only in part with it.

    I feel that you need to dig deeper before making sweeping statements about African football. A poster from a sub-saharan African country pointed out in an earlier outing that Egpyt does well at the ACN because their players play and train together for a while before the latter competition kicks off. The proof is that Egypt usually struggles at the qualifying stages of both the ACN and WC. When was the last time Egypt qualified for the WC? And when they do represent Africa at the Confederations Cup as they did in 2007 and 2009, did they get past the group stages of either qualification? I hope that they fare better in 2011 lest sports pundits will continue to take them as lightweights at the world level of major competitions organised by FIFA. Algeria and Morocco are in a different category from Egypt in that their players continue to prove themselves elsewhere in the world. The best barometer in my opinion to gauge how gifted and talented African players are is the title of African footballer of the year. That's where the likes of Ghana, Nigeria,Cameroon, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire show the West African dominance as individual players.

    One of the countries in Europe whose journalists have a good understanding and grasp of African football is France. Perhaps a look at this video clip may put things into perspective-

    Piers Edwards's assertion of the dominance of West African football is spot-on in terms of statistical significance at any reasonable level.

    In passing, I note that there is no South American national football side that has posed Cameroon or Ghana problems as such in the last 10 years. I may be wrong but would only be convinced with hard facts. The likes of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile know only too well what Cameroon are capable of. Have a close look at Cameroon or Nigeria's record with France, Spain, England and Italy in the last 10-15 years and tell me whether I'm wrong in my analyses or not.

  • Comment number 73.

    I have read almost every coment to its entirty and I couldn't resist to state one thing.
    First and formost I am African and by the way Pier this is a good blog and thanks for taking the time to show the world some of the greatness we have in Africa.
    #39 makes a good point and its a great blog.
    One thing I have realized is that Egyptian bloggers are very arrogant and selfish writers who think they are the best in everything simply because the have the most Nation cup wins. Credit to you for that, but u cannot deny the fact that people from a certain region have a different build from you. there are many factors to this (like habits, culture, food, genetics, geographical factors....the list goes on. take a look at other countries mentioned like cameroon and nigeria for example who have individuals who share-if not the same, a similar religion as those up north and east of afirca (the muslim religion that is). and one precise conclusion is that 97% of them are slim.

    So get out of your bubble and be an African. The African culture is all about family and togertherness. But even in Blogs on egyptians have a way of talking that makes me accept the rumors that DEEP DOWN YOU GUYS DONT CONSIDER YOURSELVES OR THINK YOU SHOULD BE PART OF AFRICA. (look at what you did to the Algerian players before the playoff for world cup qualifications).
    If thats not true; then stop foolishly try to isolate your self from the world especialy your felow african brothers and sisters and by all means give credit when its worth. no one has ever said egyptians dont play good football or taht egypt should not have won the nations cup. all people are talking about here is about a census and in a census, a majority confirms a theory in a given data

  • Comment number 74.

    i just want to ask why anytime they mention great players in africa they dont mention alhaji joof of senegal.non of those are greater than him.2 times african player of the cup quter finalise.

  • Comment number 75.

    Common now #74. Diouf is good and you say none is better than him? one of the players in the group is 3 times African player of the year even though it should be 4, and he is still currently the altime leading goal scorer in that tournament and counting. keep in mind, thats only one consideration.

  • Comment number 76.

    @ taramos22
    As an Egyptian i completely understand why you may see us as arrogant and selfish, we like to brag about past accomplishments. But i too have read all the comments and i dont think any egyptian blogger has denied that nigerians or cameroonians have the stronger build. Its just when it comes to the international stage, they have a better mental fortitude then us. When you have been left out of the world cup for now 24 years, but win the continental championship numerous times, you'll take any positives. But I do agree with what you say about Egyptians not considering themselves as africans. I do consider myself african and egyptian. I love african football and culture. Many Egyptians might not show it but we are truly african in spirit. As much as i disliked the big african nations during the ACN, i still cheered for any african side at the world cup. Im thankful to be apart of the african football culture, its the true way to enjoy football!

    So i suggest you dont generalize about Egyptians! were really nice people!

  • Comment number 77.

    First, a question - Why is Mounir El Hamdaoui (Morocco - AZ Alkmaar, now Ajax) not on this list and Yaya Toure who spent the better part of 2010 on the bench for Barcelona on it?

    Here are a few reasons why I think West Africa (and Central Africa - adding Cameroon - who I think are the most successful individual nation in the awards category) have eclipsed the North. Nothing new in what I would say other than piecing the thoughts of others here together.

    1. Culturally the North Africans I suspect really don't see western success as the ultimate measure in life - the West Africans pretty much do. This fuels their hunger of the westerns which leads to what some here have called 'stronger mentality'

    2. A spin off of point 1 is that top talent from the North hardly head westward - Guys like Abou-Treika, Geddo, Darragi, Meteb would have had their balls dug into top western teams since (and taken whatever unpleasantries that come with the 'western' success.)

    3. West African players are more individualistic players than their Northern contemporaries - on and off the pitch. So they tend to adapt more to the vagaries of stranger environments. Driven by their individual need for recognition and self worth (refer to point one) they will do anything to survive and thrive (especially with dollars and pounds for reward).

    4. The politics - Because the North straddle the Arab and African worlds, they don't have the political support structure to advance the cause of their players this side of the wall. With CAF this is crucial as the votes are cast by 'sentimental' African coaches - I think.

    5. Which brings me to my final point - for CAF and the BBC awards - Officials or fans, most Africans vote on nationalist sentiments. I find this unproductive, but that's the way it is. If there are 100 Ghanaian voters, 98 will vote for Gyan - ditto Nigerians, Ivorians et al.

    PS: Eto'o should have been CAF Player of the Year in 2009 and should be this year if CAF's guys don't put sentiments ahead of clinical judgment again, and deny Africa's finest his due in history. (By the way I'm Nigerian and native to Nigeria, which says point 5 five doesn't not apply to me ... or does it? Oops! There is no Nigerian on the list)

    Haaaaah - time for bed.

  • Comment number 78.

    i think this article is not right north africans.

    younes kaboul from tottenham 1.91 m
    marouane fellaine from everton and belgian international 1.97cm
    adil rami french international 1.90
    mehdi benatia 1.92 cm defender of morocco and udinese
    Kantari 1.85 cm
    da costa 1.91 is also half moroccan.
    el hamdaoui 1.83
    chamakh 1.90
    el arabi 1.83
    nacer chadli 1.88
    afellay 1.83 he signed contract with barca, begin 2011 hes in barcelona

    and many more.
    there is only one short skinny boussoufa, and the rest is average height like 1.75 - 1.80cm like carcela and aissati.

  • Comment number 79.

    just to show you how you got your blog wrong, Cameroon is not in West Africa but in Central Africa.There are so many talented world class players who come from all across Africa. Please remember the likes of Roger Milla in the past, Benny Mc carthy from South Africa or Kalusha Bualia from Zambia. Also one country full of talented players,though loaned to European nations often ignored is the DRC with players such as Makelele, Kiki Musampa, The Mpenza bothers, Vincent Kompany,Dennis Boyata, japhet n'doram to name a few. Even Tchad had a world class player in the name of Shabani Nonda.
    Please do your homework before writing reviews of this kind next time.

  • Comment number 80.

    I totally disagree with this article! i think the author have a very dim view of African people. Do you really want to make readers believe that all Ghanians or Nigerians people are bigger and stronger that their Eastern African brothers such as Kenyans, Ugandans, Tanzanians, or the Southern Sudanese stock? do you know how huge are the Sukuma people who are located around the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania?.

    By the way do you know that Hashim Thabeet a NBA player who plies his trade with Memphis stands at 7.3 feett? and guess where is he coming from? East Africa (Tanzania). The best African Body builder (David Nyimbo) comes from an Eastern African State (Tanzania), the same applies to which african countries that dominating the continental boxing! (pls look the WBF, WBA, IBF rankings here best boxers are from the Southern and the Eastern African States..

    Lets go back to Football:

    Generally Football is about skills, good organization and purpose, what have been missing in most African countries is the latter and not the former because frankly speaking players from Eastern and Southern Africans countries are very skillfully and quicker with the ball than their Western African counterparts...

    Having said that though, the situation is slowly changing as today we are noticing countries with good organization and purpose such as Malawi and Botswana are thrashing the likes of Tunisia and Morocco at home and away, the likes of Mozambique giving the Nigerians a run for their money in the last WC qualifiers etc..

    It is just a matter of time before we will start to see Football progressing in the Eastern and Southern African region just like the way it have progressed in the East Asian countries such as Japan, South and North Korea or even China.

    Last, i would like to ask the author if Messi, Xavi,and Iniesta are of a Polynesian stock like the Samoans....teh!, teh!, teh!...


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