With Black History Month coming to an end, we thought we would take the time to celebrate the many black players who have influenced the sport of football. From influential players such as Pelé and Drogba to upcoming players such as Kylian Mbappé, it is clear that black players have greatly influenced the way in which we play the sport. But how have black players influenced the role of the goalkeeper? Here are some of the most influential black players who have contributed to the sport we all love.
Arthur Wharton is believed to be the first ever black professional footballer in the world. Playing in Victorian Era Britain, he was an extremely talented athlete. In particular, he was fantastic at cricket and set the first recorded 100-yard sprinting record with a spring of 10 seconds. He had a long career at Preston North End, who at the time were the best team in the world. His career ended at Sheffield United and he went on to become a coal miner in the Northern town of Edlington. Unfortunately, though he was a great athlete, sports did not pay well during this era.
Vincent Enyeama is known for his extraordinary agility and acrobatics, as well as his performance in the 2012 South Africa World Cup. During this world cup, he saved shot after shot in his game against Argentina, earning the respect of the footballer of the year, Lionel Messi. Today, he continues to make a name for himself at the French club Lille and is ranked as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Rene Higuita, also known as ‘El Loco’ in Columbia is one of the best known goalkeepers of all time. Even if you don’t recognise his name, you will certainly recognise the football trick he brought to the sport- the Scorpion Kick. In total, he scored 42 goals in his career and was ranked one of the most entertaining football characters in football history. He was often criticised in the press for his somewhat careless antics which resulted in conceding a goal, however, he would often prove his critics wrong with a clean sheet, or even a goal to his name.
Edouard Mendy is the new recruit at Stamford Bridge. He signed for Chelsea from Stade Rennais for a price of £22 million, making him one of the most expensive goalkeepers in the Premier League. The Senegal keeper has been extremely influential at Rennes, helping the team qualify for the Champions League in Ligue 1. It is expected that he will soon be expected to step up into the starting lineup due to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s numerous mistakes that have cost Chelsea several wins. Mendy has a big position to fill and we will likely see him do just that in the 2020-2021 season.
Andre Arendse was a member of South Africa’s 1996 Africa Cup of Nations-winning side, playing a key role in the final in Johannesburg, defeating Tunisia 2-0 in a fantastic win. Though starting his career in South Africa, Arendse was spotted and saught after by multiple English clubs. He ended up moving to Fulham and eventually Oxford United. After a successful career in the English Leagues, he returned to South Africa, playing for SuperSport United. Here, he was the PSL winner in 2009 and went on to coach with Bidvest Wits. Today, he continues to coach and influence the upcoming generation of African goalkeepers and continues to display his love for the sport.
Nkono’s is arguably the most influential black goalkeeper in the history of football. He influenced a whole generation of Cameroonian shot stoppers, as well as Italian number 1 Gianluigi Buffon to become a goalkeeper after watching Nkono’s performance during the Italia 90 World Cup. During this World Cup, Nkono, along with teammates Roger Milla and Cyrille Makanaky was named one of the tournament’s best players. In total, Nkono was an international player for almost 20 years and was ranked one of the world’s best goalkeepers at his Spanish side Espanol. It is argued that Nkono brought African football into the world’s view, inspiring thousands of African players to one day join the sport of football. While African players are often associated with strikers and midfielders, it’s clear that individuals such as Nkono have done much more than simply play a position. They have influenced players of all ethnicities around the world to participate in the sport, bringing us together as one.
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