On 29 August 2021, goal number 30 000 was scored in the English Premier league. The man who scored it was Chris Wood of Burnley Football club in a match against Leeds United. This milestone made me think about the contribution of African players who have left a mark on this spectacle known as the EPL with their great goals. From our own Peter Ndlovu, the first African to play in the newly branded league in 1992 to current hotshots like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, many African players have contributed great goals to this global brand. Allow me in this article to pick ten of my best over the years.
Here we go-
They say, ” Charity begins at home ” so let me honour that old adage and start with our very own Peter Ndlovu. In Zimbabwe football circles, we know him as ” Nsunkusonke “, in England where he spent 13 years , six of them in the the English Premiership, they christened him “Unlove ” because they could not quite say Ndlovu. He scored many goals, beautiful goals but his third goal on his way to claim a hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield Stadium deserves special mention. Peter picked the ball from near the centre line and attacked the nearest defender. This was a typical Peter style, attacking at pace and forcing the defender Neil ” Razor ” Ruddock to retreat. With another defender arriving to provide cover, Ndlovu simply placed the ball into the far post, past a despairing David James.
The match day commentator captured it well, ” They say when you go to Anfield , all you get is a cup of tea and a hiding, well Peter Unlove ( Ndlovu ) had a hat-trick !” He became the first visiting player to score a hat – trick at Anfield since 1962. He wrote himself into football folklore in 1995.
Tony Yeboah – he spent only two years in the EPL with Leeds United but established himself as a Legend. There are two goals which he scored in 1996 , they are both embedded in English football history. The one against Wimbledon was voted the Goal of the Season . The other one against Liverpool was a close second but for me it was the real deal. Yeboah connected with the ball with such venom that it nearly took of David James’ head on its way to hitting the underside of the bar before bouncing off the line into the nets. It was a cannon shot and i think David James still has nightmares about this goal.
In a recent interview with the Yorkshire Post , Yeboah said, “In that moment, everything just happened. Yes, technically, the Wimbledon goal was great, but its about feelings and emotions as well, the Liverpool one is the one.” Indeed on this day , Tony Yeboah ” happened !”
Papiss Cisse- When Newcastle United visited Stamford Bridge in the 2011/ 2012 season , Cisse the Senegalese striker was on a purple patch. Everything that he touched or kicked rather turned to gold. He had scored eleven goals in ten matches. In the 2-0 win over Chelsea, Cisse scored a goal which he admitted in a later interview ” became my identity “. Receiving a knockdown from Shola Ameobi, Cisse swung at the ball with the outside of his foot. The curl that followed that simple action was amazing. One had to see it to believe it. For that graceful movement of his foot and the arch of the ball as it travelled towards goal, it was voted the goal of the season for the 2011/12 season. This was an unbelievable goal, a goal from nowhere, a goal which can only happen once in a lifetime.
Shaun Bartlett– He spent six fruitful seasons with Charlton Athletic scoring twenty four goals. One of the goals he scored won the Goal of the season award for the 2000/2001 season. It was indeed a special goal, the kind of goal all strikers dream of scoring one day. A long ball was flighted from midfield. Barlett was playing on the shoulder of the last Leicester defender. When the ball dropped over his shoulder, he hit it first time on the volley, beating the goalkeeper hands down. What a volley and it fully deserved the award.
Emmanuel Adebayor – He later fell out with the Arsenal fans who used to worship him but in one match against arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Ade scored his best goal for The Gunners. Receiving a firm pass played to feet by midfield orchestrator Cesc Fabregas, Adebayor flicked the ball to knee height and volleyed it home with such poetic grace that it was voted the goal of the season for the 2007/2008 season.
Nwaku Kanu – Kanu was the master of exquisite goals. He is one of those players for whom the phrase ” poetry in motion ” was created. He scored great goals , beautiful goals and the one he scored against Chelsea in 1999 will live long in the memories of all those who saw it. Chasing down a misplaced pass, Kanu was lucky enough to have the ball bounce against him in an attempted clearance by a Chelsea defender. What followed after that was simply unbelievable. Kanu had the ball under his spell, Ed De Goey the Chelsea goalkeeper came charging to try and tackle him. Kanu was by the corner flag, he dragged the ball with one scoop of his size twelve boot leaving the goalkeeper in a heap. More defenders charged towards him but Kanu was also the personification of calmness in all matters football. . He curled the ball into the net from the narrowest of angles. It was an act of genius by a clever footballer who specialised in the audacious. I must hasten to add that technically gifted players like Kanu helped to make the EPL more palatable. Before that , English fans were used to the blood and thunder approach to football but the likes of Kanu introduced a different football culture which enticed more fans to watch matches. Before , players like Mathew Le Tissier and Glenn Hoddle were regarded as aberrations but watching Kanu, i think many fans came to accept that football could be about the brain also rather than just brawn.
Yaya Toure-Yaya is a true legend for Manchester City and the EPL and he will forever be an icon. He scored many goals but the one he scored against Aston Villa in 2014 captured what Yaya was all about. He had a big engine and he had power in abundance. He sometimes brushed players aside like someone swatting away irritating flies. In that goal against Villa, he did just that. He picked the ball from his own half and motored towards the Villa goal. He brushed away the chasing Villa midfielders and defenders as if they did not exit. With the Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan coming out to narrow the angle, Yaya simply curled the ball past the goalkeeper. That was a solo effort from Yaya and many have described it as a ” beast ” of goal, strength. determination, speed were all captured in this goal.
Sadio Mane- in 2019 , Liverpool were played against Watford. Sadio Mane scored two goals in a 5-0 thrashing of the helpless Hornets. His second goal was an act of both quick thinking and improvisation. After receiving a through pass which he seemed to have wasted because of an initial uncharacteristic first touch, Mane managed tom retrieve the situation and then performed the audacious. He performed a back heel which took the Watford defence and goalkeeper Ben Forster by surprise. It was as cheeky as much as it was unexpected. It showed Mane’s determination not to waste an opportunity and also the ability to think quickly on his feet. That was well executed by the Senegal captain.
Kelechi Ineacho – The Nigerian striker operates in fits and starts but when he hits a purple patch, fans accept that he is one of the most talented young strikers in the EPL. When Leicester City played against Crystal Palace in the 2020/ 2021 season, Kelechi was influential in the match. He provided an assist for Timothy Castagne before going a step further by scoring the winning goal. That goal was described by the commentator as a ” bolt from the blue ” and what a goal it was. Taking a long clearance from the back , Ineacho cut in from the wing before powering a thunderous shot past the hapless Vicente Guita who was in goals for Palace. It was a goal fit to win any match and for that he won Goal of the season award for his club . This was a remarkable achievement by the young man and I think it boosted his confidence in a big way.
Cheik Toite – In February 2011, Arsenal played against Newcastle . Arsenal came out of the blocks firing from all cylinders. They took a 4-0 lead before halftime and by this stage the match looked done and dusted. I want to believe that some Geordie die-hards left during the break, they had lost all hope. But as the saying goes, it is not over until it is over. Could Newcastle mount a comeback ? Improbable as it was, when Arsenal were reduced to ten men and Joey Barton scored a penalty, the comeback had started. What looked like a mere consolation turned to hope when Newcastle scored two more goals. 4-3 was the scoreline. Then it happened!With three minutes to go, a free kick was swung in and half cleared. The ball fell to the feet of the Ivorian international. Dear reader, he hit a first time volley, it was a sweet strike. The ball flew past a diving Szczesny the Arsenal keeper. This was a fitting goal to bring to end the epic drama which had just unfolded at St. James Park. The match will go down in EPL history as one of the most exciting and the icing on the cake was that goal by the African Legend.
How sad that the legend collapsed and died after moving to China. He is sorely missed and he will forever be remembered for his contribution in that epic battle. May His Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.
Indeed African players have helped to grow the brand which captures the attention of the whole world. engrosses the whole world. The described goals give a snippet of that contribution. As Africans we can hold our heads high because our legends have contributed to the spectacle.