Africa’s best soccer football players are West African

On January 10 next year FIFA will announce its World XI 2011. The result, they remind us, will be based on voting by over 50,000 professional soccer players from around the world. “Every voting player selects one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three strikers.”

The 3-year-old award feels like another one of those endless FIFA awards created to showcase sponsors’ products. But I’ll take it.

The news is that FIFA just announced a shortlist of 55 players from which the final 11 players for the World XI 2011 will come from.

A quick “analysis” suggests no surprises:

The bulk of those shortlisted play for European clubs in three countries: Spain (18 players), England (17) and Italy (15);

The rest on the shortlist play either for German clubs (4) or in the French first division (1);

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea dominate the list with the most players;

Finally, Spain has 10 players on the shortlist, with the second largest national representation coming from the largest African country in South America, Brazil–with 9 players.

As for African countries on the continent: only four players made the shortlist:

Yaya Touré (Cote d’Ivoire and Manchester City);

Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon and Anzhi);

Didier Drogba (Cote d’Ivoire and Chelsea); and

Michael Essien (Ghana and Chelsea).

Of the four, only Touré, Drogba and Eto’o still regularly turn out for their respective national teams. Touré and Drogba will be in action at next year’s African Nations Cup (ANC) in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Cameroon has not qualified for the ANC and Eto’o is the subject of a disciplinary procedure for leading a recent player revolt in the national team and is playing–bringing peace and cashing a huge paycheck–in the Russian league. Essien, who has been injured, hasn’t played for Ghana in a while–he did not make the 2010 World Cup squad–though he recently expressed an interest in playing again for his country.

I was surprised at the omission of Kevin Prince Boateng, (Ghana and AC Milan) from the list. He is arguably the most exciting player of this generation of African players. (Boateng recently announced his retirement from international football.)

I am not sure if this poor showing is a sign of the poor health of African football. In fact, all four players left their homes early and are really products of European, mostly French, youth club systems.

But perhaps, we can agree on one thing with the world’s professional players: the best African players come from West Africa.

Here’s the full list.


7 thoughts on “Africa’s best soccer football players are West African

  1. Essien’s career is done. The future of Ghana’s midfield lies with dede and jordan ayew. It is surprising KPB is not on the list. Will have to see if he stays true to his word re: international play. Ghanaians are rightfully upset. I guess Asamoah Gyan disqualified himself when he transferred to UAE. Demba Ba from Senegal has been a beast for newcastle. 9 or 10 goals so far. Seems like he should be on this list.. He’s top 5 in goals scored in epl.

    First time seeing the site outside of g-reader in a while. Design looks good.

  2. The top African footballers have left for Europe early for decades. A more distressting trend is the lack of creative players being developed from Africa. It seems the popularity of the holding midfielder position has handcuffed the development of many African sides. The story of Obi Mikel comes to mind for example.

    Good post, hope we get more on African football these next two months.

  3. I don’t like lists, and I dislike FIFA lists even more. It’s just for selling copy and attracting traffic. I don’t like awards either. The truth is Walter Rodney was right: Africa has been underdeveloped by Europe, in football as elsewhere. That a few millionaires like Eto’o, Drogba, Yaya Touré have made it (and continue to gain accolades in the metropole) does not change this grim reality. And as Prince Boateng and other stars in Europe’s Big 5 leagues drop out of international play, the African national teams will deteriorate ever more. There is no local base on which to grow and develop. The system is the vampire.

  4. @phillippaoletta: agree on Essien. Which is why I was baffled by his inclusion on the shortlist.
    Agree on Demba Ba. We did a short post on him a few days ago. He did express an interest to play for Senegal in CAN/ANC.

    @ASEC: agree. Definitely a lot more football over the next few months.

    @Peter: like I wrote, “The 3-year-old award feels like another one of those endless FIFA awards created to showcase sponsors’ products. But I’ll take it.”
    Agree on the system being the vampire, but it is also unfair to Eto’o, Drogba and Yaya Touré to dismiss them as a “few millionaires.”

    • I’m not dismissing Drogba and company, I often enjoy watching them play, but the fact remains that for every Drogba there are thousands that don’t make it. As in NCAA hoops, the chance of making it to the Big 5 is very, very slim. Kudos to those talented few who succeed, but what about the rest? Keep up the good work and go Basel!

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