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2010 World Cup Football South Africa Showcases Worldclass Black Talent
Yes, the world is in the grip of football fever. The 2010 FIFA World Cup, which enthralls the world every four years, is now in the quarter-final stage and all bets are on who will win this year’s final cup. Will the indomitable Germans defeat the tenacious Argentinians or will Holland score a defeat? The World Cup is, of course, the biggest and most anticipated sporting event of all time. Two hundred and four nations attempted to qualify for thirty-two spots, with the US qualifying for the first time in decades. The final match between Italy and France in 2006 was watched by about 715 million people. With changing demographics and 21st century technology making borders almost obsolete, this year’s numbers are anyone’s guess. Fans pour into the stadiums, huddle around the TV, with gladiatorial fervor. History is invoked, wars are fought, players are condemned and publicly punished. Loyalty to players and countries is etched in stone with blood and sweat.
It is universally known as “the beautiful game,” for its elegant simplicity, the divinely ordained athleticism of its players, and its appeal to the common man. The skill of the game, the passion and the abiding love for the game create a brotherhood that transcends sports. Incomparable high and mindless excitement GOOOOOOOL! Much like basketball, it elevates its gifted players to godlike status while simultaneously connecting them to the mortals who live through them. More than any other sport, soccer is the great equalizer. Because it’s not just skin color, nationality or club that can dictate ability or size. It simply is. A boy from a Brazilian favela with a devastating stroke or from an obscure village in the Ivory Coast can become a striker for a world-class English club. A good number come from extremely difficult circumstances, where pulling up by the bootstraps often means borrowing a pair of football boots and heading out for a game on a dusty bowl. Today’s black footballers who come from far away countries to play for European clubs such as Inter Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United. But for the World Cup, they return to play only for their national team. This is not to say that racism in football is not a serious problem. The taunts and behavior of fans can be unspeakably ugly, cruel and primitive, coming from a contingent that remains stubbornly ignorant and primitive. That the players consistently rise above that is a testament to their personal strength and integrity. Gaming has become a way of life that can change the trajectory of lives and communities. Staggering salaries are often accompanied by lofty commercial endorsements from Nike, Gillette and others. Players share their good fortune, donating significant amounts to build hospitals, schools and life-saving social service programs.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was the first to be played on the African continent and has the potential to change global perception on multiple levels. From the African Cup of Nations to the 2010 World Cup, footballers of African descent and nationality have drawn the world’s attention: they are a force to be reckoned with. Just ask Team USA.
And no self-respecting football fan ever calls it football. That’s football, now and always.
Here are the eight best and brightest black footballers at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Club: Inter Milan; Cameroon national team
Earnings: $12. 7 million
The world has been put on notice. Despite being one of the best left-backs in the world, Samuel Eto’o’s achievements are significant for his country and his club. He exemplifies footballing excellence in the spirit of great legends and has exceeded expectations at every club he has played for. His performance has been consistently excellent and he is currently the most decorated African player of all time, including the African Player of the Year for three consecutive years. A goal-scoring machine, Eto’o scored over 100 goals in five seasons with Barcelona. He is the captain of the Cameroon national team and currently the highest paid footballer in Africa. He has participated in two World Cups and five African Nations Cups and is the all-time top scorer in the history of the African Nations Cup (winning the championship twice) with 18 goals. At the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Eto’o became the joint leading scorer
As a member of the Cameroon national team, he won a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Country: Ivory Coast / Ivory Coast
Earnings: $7.5 million Endorsements: Pepsi; Nike, Samsung
Name it the future of football. Don’t be fooled by Drogba’s late entry into the football arena, he is in a power house. Known for breaking through impregnable defenses, Drogba is a goalkeeper’s nightmare. Signed by Chelsea for $37 million, he proved invaluable. He has scored more goals for the club than any other foreign player and is the seventh all-time top scorer. the most promising African footballer, he is one of the best scorers in the Premier League. The captain and all-time top scorer of the Ivory Coast national football team, Drogba signed for Chelsea for a record fee of £24 million, making him the most expensive Ivory Coast player in history. Drogba came to prominence as one of the world’s most outstanding forwards in 2006, when he won the league title with Chelsea and captained the national team for the first time. At the 2006 World Cup, he scored Ivory Coast’s first goal in the competition and was voted African Footballer of the Year in 2006. He is the only player to score in six FA Cup finals.
But much of that pales in comparison to his humanitarian work for his country. After Ivory Coast qualified for the 2006 World Cup, Drogba called for a ceasefire between the combatants in his country’s deadly five-year civil war, which was soon followed. In 2007, he was named a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and donated his fee of $4.5 million to support Pepsi to build a hospital in his hometown of Abidjan.
Maicon Douglas Sisenando
Club team: Internazionale AKA Inter Milan
Earnings: $5.4 million
A gifted right-back and powerful defender, Maicon is something of a phenomenon in Brazilian football – no easy feat. He excels in defensive plays and provides great support to his team. Maicon scored Brazil’s first goal of the 2010 World Cup – a shot from a tight angle – against Korea in their first game. Maicon’s contribution to Inter Milan included solid support in defense and attack, putting him in contention for the 2010 Ballon d’Or, the award for the best player in Europe. In recognition of his prowess, Real Madrid recently paid £28 million to join their club.
Club team: Manchester United
Position: defender, guard; French captain
Earnings: $4 million
The Euro is its own version of the United Nations. Born in Senegal of Guinean descent and a French citizen, he is one of Manchester United’s most valuable players and, oddly enough, the captain of the French national team. Arguably one of the best left-backs in the world and vicious left-back Evra won the Premier League and Champions League titles with Manchester United. During United’s 07–08 season, Evra became a key member of United’s defence. But he is not without controversy. After sacking teammate Nicolas Anelka from the team following an argument with coach Raymond Domenech, Evra led a player revolt against the decision and publicly condemned the coach. As a result, Evra was left on the bench for the final match against South Africa. Despite this, he returns to a very distinguished career.
Club team: Barcelona; French national team
Earnings: Annual salary plus bonus: $6.2 million, other income: $6.2 million
Recommendations: Pepsi, Gillette, Reebok
He is one of the most recognized and praised players in football and certainly a worthy accolade for one of the most outstanding strikers in the sport. During his meteoric rise at Arsenal, the phenomenal Henry emerged as the top scorer 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. Possessing the devastating speed and agility of a superhero, he remains Europe’s all-time leading goalscorer with 42 goals and a flair for impossible, dramatic goals. Despite the controversy surrounding Henry’s penchant for using his arm to set up a goal, he is a footballing institution who has elevated the sport to an art form.
Club team: Chelsea (ENG); French national team
Earnings: $5.8 million Endorsements: Puma
Although his nervousness rivals his potential, Anelka has shown enormous potential as a striker. A ruthless goalscorer who is lightning quick with superb control, Anelka’s goal won France a World Cup match against Ireland. His three-and-a-half-year deal and his reported fee mean that more money has been spent on the transfer of Nicolas during his career than any other player in football history.
Sulli Muntari Country: Ghana
Club team: Internazionale AKA Inter Milan
Earnings: $5.3 million, Endorsements: Puma
If Ghana win the World Cup, you can bet that Muntari will be key to their victory. A football prodigy, Muntari was only 16 when he played for Ghana at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina in 2001. He was voted an All-Star Player during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations Tournament in Ghana.
Country: Ivory Coast
Club team: Barcelona
Earnings: $3.7 million
Toure’s titanic stature and bursting energy combine to make him one of the best midfielders in modern football, with the perfect combination of physicality and superb technique. He is the first Ivorian player to win the UEFA Champions League in the 2008/09 season and one of the driving forces behind the team that remade football history by winning six trophies in one season. He was recently transferred from Barcelona to Manchester City for £25 million, where he will join his brother, brother and club captain, Cole. He was a powerful midfielder for his native Ivory Coast, who made his debut at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
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