Yes, the world is in the throes of football fever. The 2010 FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup football, which wows the globe every four years is now in its quarter final stage and all bets are on to see who will capture this year’s final cup. Will the indomitable Germans beat the resilient Argentineans or, will the Netherlands score an upset? World Cup Football is hands down, the greatest and most highly anticipated sporting event of all time. Two hundred and four nations tried to qualify for thirty two spots, with the U.S. qualifying for the first time in decades. The 2006 final match between Italy and France was watched by an estimated 715 million. With shifting demographics and 21st century technology rendering borders nearly obsolete, this year’s tally is anyone’s guess. Aficionados pour into stadiums, huddle around television sets, with gladiator-like fervor. Histories are invoked, wars waged, players pilloried and publicly chastised. Allegiances for players and countries are drawn in stone with blood and sweat.
It is known universally as, “the beautiful game,” for its elegant simplicity, the divinely appointed athletic prowess of its players and its appeal to the common man. The skill of the play, the passion and the enduring love for the game creates a brotherhood that transcends the sport. The unparalleled high and mindless exhilaration of GOOOOOAAAL! Much like basketball, it elevates its gifted players to god-like status, while simultaneously connecting them with the mortals who live vicariously through them. More than any other sport, football is a great equalizer. Because not mere color of skin, or nationality or Club can dictate ability or greatness. It simply is. A boy from a favela of Brazil with a devastating strike or from an obscure village in Côte d’Ivoire can become a striker for a world-class English Club. A good number come from exceedingly difficult circumstances, where pulling yourself up by the bootstraps often means borrowing a pair of cleats and heading to a game on a dusty bowl. Today’s black football players who hail from far-flung countries to play for European Clubs such as Inter Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United. But for World Cup, they return to play only for their national team. This is not to say that racism in football is not a serious issue. Taunts and behavior of fans can be unspeakably ugly, cruel and primitive, coming as it does from a contingent that remains stubbornly ignorant and primitive. That players consistently rise above it is a testament to their personal strength and integrity. The game has become a way of life that can change the trajectory of lives and communities. Stunning paychecks are often accompanied by lofty commercial endorsement from Nike, Gillette, and others. Players share their good fortune, donating substantial amounts to build hospitals, schools, and life-saving social service programs.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is the first played on the continent of Africa and has the potential to shift global perceptions on a number of levels. From the Africa Cup of Nations to 2010 World Cup, footballers of African descent and nationality have put the world on notice: they are a force with which to be reckoned. Just ask Team USA.
And no self-respecting football fan ever calls it soccer. It’s football, now and always.
Here are eight of the world’s best and brightest black football players of the 2010 World Cup South Africa.
Club: Inter Milan; Cameroon national team
Earnings: $12. 7 million
The world’s been put on notice. Hands-down one of the top left-back in the world, Samuel Eto’o’s achievements are momentous for his country and his club. He exemplifies football excellence in the vein of the great legends and has surpassed expectations in every club for which he has played. His performance has been consistently excellent and he is at present the most decorated African player of all time, including African Player of the Year for three consecutive years. A goal scoring machine, Eto’o scored over 100 goals in five seasons with FC Barcelona. He is captain of the Cameroon national team and currently Africa’s best-paid football player. He has participated in two World Cups and five African Nations Cups and is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the African Nations Cup, (capturing championship twice) with 18 goals. In the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Eto’o became joint leading goalscorer
As a member of the Cameroon national team, he was a gold medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Country: Ivory Coast/Côte d’Ivoire
Earnings: $7.5 million Endorsements: Pepsi; Nike, Samsung
Mark the name for it is the future of football. Don’t be fooled by Drogba’s late entry to the football arena, he in a powerhouse. Known for breaching impregnable defenses, Drogba is a goalkeepers’ nightmare. Signed by Chelsea for $37 million, he has proved invaluable. He has scored more goals for the club than any other foreign player and is it’s 7th highest goal scorer ever. most promising African football players, he is one of the top scorers in the Premier League. Captain and all-time top scorer of the Côte d’Ivoire national football team, Drogba was signed to Chelsea for a record breaking fee of £24 million, making him the most expensive Côte d’Ivoire player in history. Drogba came to prominence as one of the world’s foremost strikers in 2006 when he won the league title with Chelsea and captained the national team for the first time. In the 2006 World Cup he scored Côte d’Ivoire’s first ever goal of the competition and was chosen the 2006 African Footballer of the Year. He is the only player to score in six English cup finals.
But much of this pales in comparison to his humanitarian work for his country. After Côte d’Ivoire qualified for the 2006 World Cup, Drogba pleaded for a ceasefire between the combatants of his country’s deadly 5 year civil war, which was honored shortly after. In 2007, he was appointed Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and donated his $4.5 million signing on fee for his endorsement of Pepsi towards the construction of a hospital in his hometown of Abidjan.
Maicon Douglas Sisenando
Club Team: Internazionale AKA Inter Milan
A gifted righ-sided fullback and formidable back-field, Maicon is a something of a phenomenon in Brazilian football – not an easy feat. He excels at defensive games and provides great support for his team. Maicon scored Brazil’s first 2010 World Cup goal – a tight angle shot – against Korea in their first game. Maicon’s contribution to Inter Milan have included staunch defending and offensive support, place him in contention for the 2010 ballon d’Or, the European Footballer of the year award. In a nod to his prowess, Real Madrid recently paid £28 million for him to join their Club.
Club Team: Manchester United
Position: Defender, Full-back; French captain
Earnings: $4 million
Evra is his own version of the United Nations. Born in Senegal of Guinean heritage and a French national, he is one of Manchester United ‘s most valuable players and oddly, captain of the French national team. Arguably one of the best left backs in the world and a wicked left wingback Evra has won Premier League titles and the Champions League with Manchester United. During United’s 07-08 season, Evra became a key member of United’s defense. But he is not without controversy. Following the dismissal of teammate, Nicolas Anelka from the squad after his dust-up with coach Raymond Domenech, Evra led a player mutiny against the decision and publicly denounced the coach. Asa result, Evra was benched for the final game against South Africa. Even so, he returns to a highly distinguished career.
Club Team: Barcelona; French national team
Earnings: Annual salary plus bonus: $6.2 million, Other income: $6.2 million
Endorsements: Pepsi, Gilette, Reebok
He is one of the most recognized and lauded players in football and certainly A worthy distinction for one of the most prominent forwards in the sport. During his meteoric rise at Arsenal, the phenomenal Henry emerged as leading goal-scorer for almost every season with 226 goals in all competitions. The phenomenal Frenchman won two league titles and three FA Cups and was twice nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year. Possessed of devastating speed and superhero agility, he remains the leading all-time goal-scorer in Europe with 42 goals with a flair for impossible, dramatic goals. Despite the controversy surrounding Henry’s propensity for using his hand to set up a goal, he is a football institution that has elevated the sport to an art form.
Club Team: Chelsea (ENG); French national team
Earnings: $5.8 million Endorsements: Puma
Though his petulance rivals his potential, Anelka has shown tremendous potential as a striker. A relentless scorer who is lightning fast with superb control, Anelka’s goal won France its World Cup match against Ireland. His three-and-a-half year deal and his reported fee means more money has been spent on transferring Nicolas over the course of his career than on any other player in football history.
Sully Muntari Country: Ghana
Club Team: Internazionale AKA Inter Milan
Earnings: $5.3 million, Endorsements: Puma
If Ghana takes World Cup, you can bet Muntari will be instrumental to their win. A football prodigy, Muntari was just 16 when he played for Ghana at the 2001 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina. He was voted as an All-Star Player during the 2008 African Cup of Nations Tournament in Ghana.
Country: Ivory Coast
Club Team: Barcelona
Earning: $3.7 million
Toure’s titanic stature and gushing energy combine to make him one of the best midfielders in modern football, with a perfect combination of physical power with superb technique. He is the first player from Côte d’Ivoire to win the UEFA Champions League, in 2008/09 and one of the driving forces behind the team that rewrote football history by winning six trophies in a single season. He was recently transferred from Barcelona to Manchester City for £25m, where he’ll join his brother, brother and club captain, Kolo. He was a powerful midfielder for his native Côte d’Ivoire, who made their first appearance in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Denise Campbell Laidler