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The 10 Hottest African Players on the Planet

15 Jan



With the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations less than two months away, the eyes of world football gently turn to Africa – where a continent’s talent prepare to fight for their place to perform in South Africa.

This article identifies the continent’s ten hottest talents. Whilst not all of these men are in line to be competing at the tournament – every single one is guaranteed to generate headlines over the next few months.

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Ranking BBC’s 5 Nominees for African Footballer of the Year 2011-12

15 Jan

Ranking BBC’s 5 Nominees for African Footballer of the Year 2011-12
On the back of CAF’s own shortlist of 10 for the confederation’s player of the year award, the BBC has also released the names of five nominees for the corporation’s own award.
After another stunning year of achievement for African players both on their own continent and in Europe the shortlist of nominees is once again of the highest calibre. But who will win the award when announced on the 17th December. Continue reading

Reluctant Africans – Dilemmas of identity as the Afcon Approaches

15 Jan



Reluctant Africans – Dilemmas of identity as the Afcon Approaches

In the build up to a major international tournament there is the inevitable recruitment drive of managers attempting to reinforce their squads and increase their options. The vogue among head coaches of African national teams has been to turn to overseas talent, and those with African roots, to supplement their sides. Continue reading

African Cup of Nations: Counting Down 10 Potential Stars of the Tournament

15 Jan



African Cup of Nations: Counting Down 10 Potential Stars of the Tournament

With Africa’s premiere continental competition less than two months away, Bleacher Report turns its focus to the Afcon, and the potential stars that may emerge in the tournament.
Chronicling the famous and the infamous, the bold and the brave, the fast and the furious, BR’s African expert Ed Dove gives the rundown of ten Potential Stars of the Cup of Nations.
Keep an eye out for these talented Africans as the continent’s finest do battle in South Africa. Continue reading

Taye Taiwo: Super Eagle in the Spotlight

15 Jan

Taye Taiwo: Super Eagle in the Spotlight
As questions of squad selection sharpen in the minds of Super Eagles fans, Goal Nigeria runs the rule over some of those players unsure of their place in Stephen Keshi’s plans. This first article considers the claims and credentials of Taye Taiwo

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Africa in the Premier League – Preview 1.12

15 Jan



With another enticing assortment of Premier League bouts ahead of us this weekend, the stars of Africa are once again poised to set the country’s turf alight.

Up and down the league, teams have been relying on Africa’s heroes to score their goals and preserve their clean sheets, and with varying success, they have been contributing profoundly to the league’s key storylines. Wherever you look, Africans are making headlines and this weekend promises to be no different.
I begin with Sebastien Bassong, one of Africa’s stars in the Premier League’s opening phases. Norwich entertain Sunderland in Sunday’s sole Premier League, and whilst Bassong can’t exactly be expecting a weekend off-Sunderland are likely to pose much less of a threat than Norwich’s opponents in previous weeks. Blunt up front, and uninspired in midfield, Sunderland are labouring-Stephane Sessegnon struggling to hit the heights that he did a year ago.
With Bassong continuing to marshal the defence, Norwich can expect to prosper on ‘Super’ Sunday.
At the Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion look to overcome their poor midweek defeat to Swansea by securing three points  at home to Stoke City. Peter Odemwingie will hope to be a creative and scoring force for the Throstles, whilst in the opposing camp, Steve Nzonzi-facing an existential crisis on whether to choose France or the DRC-will be looking to anchor the midfield for the Potters.
In West London, QPR are crying out for a hero-Harry Redknapp might just be that man, and on Saturday he has the chance to demonstrate his credentials at home to Villa. As Redknapp attempts to fashion an EPL team from Mark Hughes’s also-rans, he can call upon a number of African and African born talents.
Among the Rangers’ ranks are the likes of Stephane Mbia, Armand Traore, Samba Diakite, and Adel Taarabt, all of whom have represented African nations-as well as Djibril Cisse and Jose Bosingwa, who were born of African parents. Redknapp certainly has the talents to pull the Rs away from the drop zone-the question is, can he gel them together?
Look out for West Ham’s African trio of Guy Demel, Mo Diame, and Modibo Maiga to put on a good show at home against Chelsea, although the Blues’ Nigerian duo of John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses will be looking to secure a valuable first win for new boss Rafael Benitez.

5 African Stars who are lighting up Europe this season

15 Jan
5 African Stars who are lighting up Europe this season
With the influence of Africa evident in all of Europe’s major leagues, and with African stars creating storylines and topping scoring charts across the continent, Bleacher Report’s African expert Ed Dove takes a look at 5 African Stars who are lighting up Europe this season.
A brief glace at the shortlist of players that failed to make the final cut of this article is testament to Africa’s enormous impact in Europe’s top divisions. Demba Ba leads the Premier League scoring table, whilst Marouane Fellaini has arguably been the Prem’s standout star this term; Kwadwo Asamoah has settled terrifically at Juventus, whilst Wissam Ben Yedder, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bafé Gomis have been scoring goals for fun in France. Victor Wanyama also deserves a mention after impressing in Celtic’s Champions League run, and being for being one of the continent’s most improved performers.
Whilst this quintet of players are all at different stages of their career, playing for a myriad of different clubs, and contributing in a number of different ways, all have been firmly in and among the headlines as their clubs have prospered due to their efforts.
Expect big things from this five in 2013.
Wilfried Bony
Whilst Wilfried Bony failed to feature in my ‘Top Ten Hottest Africans on the Planet’ article last month, I did earmark him as a player more than capable of being a potential star of the Africa Cup of Nations, due to kick off in just over a month.
It’s not hard to see why Bony is being considered as one of the continent’s most exciting performers at the moment, and why his name is being uttered in some of the sport’s most exalted corridors.
With 30 goals in under 50 games for Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem at the time of writing, Bony has been terrorising defences in Holland since his arrival in 2011. Whilst some may suggest that it doesn’t take the greatest effort to come across as prolific in the Netherlands-see Mateja Kezman and Alfonso Alves-Bony’s qualities, such as his electric pace and cool finishing, suggest that he may well be the complete article.
It is a hypothesis that may well soon be put to the test; reports suggest that both Liverpool and Chelsea have been lining up a bit for the striker, and whilst the Lagunes-born frontman may well be replacing compatriot Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge, so he may soon be usurping him for Les Elephants of the Cote d’Ivoire. As I wrote recently, national selectors are keen to usher out the Zimmer-framed ‘Golden Generation’ of the nation, and at 23, Bony may be a key man in the national side’s rejuvenation.
Ibou
It’s fair to say that The Gambia don’t get much of a mention on the Bleacher Report: not one of Africa’s heavyweights, not a prolific producer of footballing talent, and not a country renowned for much at all-the country, cruelly nicknamed the ‘Rectal Thermometer of Africa’ in France, you may be surprised to see the country represented among these pages.
But then again, I assume you’ve never heard of Ebrahim ‘Ibou’ Savaneh-a man more likely to relate to the nation’s other nickname-‘The Smiling Coast’.
The reason for these smiles? How about scoring close to a goal a game for Oud-Heverlee Leuven in Belgium this season? How about being pretty much the sole reason for your team, no-hopers from the north of Belgium sitting in a comfortable ninth place in the country’s top division? How about leading the nation’s scoring charts after 18 games?
Ibou has a lot to be smiling about.
The Gambian frontman, who learned his trade in Germany after arriving in Europe from Africa, has recently been the subject of interest from Ukrainian side Dnipro. At 26, and having evolved in Belgium after spells with clubs including Beveren and Kortrijk, it would seem that he is ripe for a move to one of Europe’s more taxing leagues. Juande Ramos’s outfit, already with a few West Africans among their ranks, could be an interesting step up for the hotshot.
Sebastien Bassong
When one imagines players ‘lighting up’ a league-one naturally considers the dazzling footwork of midfielders, or the electric finishing of strikers. Here at Bleacher Report, we are equal equality-just because the currency of a centre back is perhaps less glamorous-interceptions, tackles, and headers-it’s not to say that he is less capable of lighting up a league.
Just take a look at Sebastien Bassong.
Many suggested that the departure of Paul Lambert would mean the rug being pulled from beneath Norwich’s feet when he left the club for Aston Villa this summer. Whilst current Canaries incumbent Chris Hughton had impressed at Newcastle, and, to a lesser extent, at Birmingham, it was felt that the club’s success was due so significantly to Lambert’s cult of personality, that with him gone, a slide was inevitable.
With Norwich currently sat in 12th, and Lambert’s new club Villa down in 15th, few are arguing that the Scot was so pivotal after all!
Indeed, Hughton has added both shine and steel to Lambert’s great work at Carrow Road. The ethic and style of play has remained, but Norwich have been bolstered by a clutch of terrific signings. Not least in the heart of defence, where Bassong is the new hero in East Anglia.
In their league matches to date, Norwich have enjoyed 5 clean sheets-including shutouts against Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester United-who were beaten at Carrow Road back in November. Whilst Anthony Pilkington got the winner that day, much of the praise must go to Bassong, who marshals the defence and protects John Ruddy’s goal with aplomb. Check out my ‘Best and Worst of Africa in the EPL’ articles just to see Bassong’s incredible influence in Norwich City’s sustained rise.
Bright times are ahead for the Canaries and their Cameroonian stopper.
Albert Meyong
Another Cameroonian star excelling in Europe this season is Vitoria Setubal striker Meyong.
Once upon a time, Meyong was a hero in Southern Portugal. It was 2005 Portuguese Cup Final, when unfancied Vitoria battled their way to the final, and a date with league Champions Benfica. After an early Simao penalty for the Aguias, Vitoria threw caution to the wind, and struck back, initially thanks to a slice of fortune and a Ricardo Rocha own goal, and then, in the 72ndminute, through Meyong, their massive frontman, who touched a rebound past Moreira, into the Benfica net.
Cue ecstasy.
Meyong’s five-year stay at Setubal ended soon after the final, as he sought pastures new-initially at Belenenses-no strangers to a star African striker-and subsequently with Levante (where things didn’t quite work out) and Braga, where three years started strongly but faded badly.
Now back at his beloved Vitoria, and once more a regular in the first eleven, the veteran Meyong has repaid the faith shown in him by his former club and currently tops the Portuguese scoring charts alongside Porto’s Colombian star Jackson Martinez. A hat-trick against Rio Ave as recently as November will live long in the memories of Os Sadinos fans.
With the Indomitable Lions absent once again from Africa’s continental spectacle, expect both Meyong and Bassong to have sustained influences in their domestic objectives in the New Year, leaving the rest of us wondering how Cameroon failed to quality for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Humour me, indulge me, concede to me-just for a moment.
Whilst I have recently been criticised for including alleged ‘non-African’ talents within my rankings and lists considering African players, I hope I can justify my inclusion of Stephan El Shaarawy; the young Milan striker born in Savona to an Egyptian father and an Italian mother.
As I have explained previously on Bleacher Report,  I write about the influence of Africa, that is to say, the capacity to which people or things that originate-in some way-from the African continent, can have an effect on the narratives or storylines that we all enjoy in the sport.
Everton’s Marouane Fellaini-who made the shortlist for this article-is a regular feature in my articles due to his Moroccan heritage, so El Shaarawy is eligible for consideration due to his being second generation Egyptian-i.e. being the first generation of his family, his father’s family, to be born in the new host country.
Far from ‘insulting’ Africa in considering players like Fellaini, and El Shaarawy, as well as the likes on Danny Welbeck, Mario Balotelli, and Prince Boateng, I believe I am emphasising and demonstrating the influence-there’s that word again-that the African continent has on the footballling world.
This influence is evident almost nowhere more than the hallowed turf of the San Siro, where despite labouring down in seventh place, Milan possess arguably the league’s finest young striker in El Shaarawy.
Currently leading the Serie A scoring charts-quite amazing for a 20-year old playing in a country not famed for ‘giving youth a chance’, Il Faraone (that pervading Egyptian influence) has set the league alight, flourishing after the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With a glistening career surely lined up ahead of him, expect El Shaarawy-who recently made my list of 10 Hottest African Players on the Planet-to go from strength to strength in the new year.
Ed Dove

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