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A Look at Some of Africa’s Incredible Record Makers and Breakers

To set the bar high is unforgettable, to maintain its rank is even greater considering that pioneers are always glorified and emulated. The mention of these athletes is an appreciation for the milestone they have worked hard to achieve.

Preparation coupled with opportunity and confidence are key to defying all odds and becoming pioneers, whereas some draw inspiration from previous records that seemed untouchable hence, rewriting history.

Below is a select list of African stars who have gone on to pave the way for others to come while breaking and setting records to leave a recognizable mark on various audiences.


Hakeem Olajuwon – The Dream Shaker

Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon aka “Hakeem the Dream” holds the NBA record for most blocked shots (3,830) and is the only player to record more than 3,000 blocked shots and 2,000 steals in a career. The 1994 NBA regular season MVP recorded 26,946 points and 13,748 rebounds during his career.

The Hall of Famer became the first player to be named NBA MVP, NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP in the same season (1993-94).

During his 18-year career, the Nigerian obtained the following Honors: NBA championship (1994, ’95); NBA Finals MVP (1994, ’95); NBA MVP (1994); Defensive Player of Year (1993, ’94); All-NBA First Team (1987, ’88, ’89, ’93, ’94, ’97); All-NBA Second Team (’86, ’90, ’96); All-NBA Third Team (1991, ’95, ’99); All-Defensive First Team (’87, ’88, ’90, ’93, ’94); 12-time All-Star; Olympic gold medalist (199); One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996);


Peter Ndlovu – The Pioneer


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The Zimbabwean striker was the first African player to take part in the English Premier League. He joined Coventry City in 1991 and made over 150 appearances for the club until leaving in 1997.

Christopher Wreh – First EPL champion


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Liberian striker Christopher Wreh, is the first African to win the English Premier League title. He won the EPL and the FA Cup with Arsenal in 1997-98.

Didier Drogba – Top scorer

during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on December 3, 2014 in London, England.

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In March 2012, the Ivorian striker scored his 100th English Premier League goal in a victory over Stoke City, to become the first African footballer to reach that incredible milestone.

Yakubu Aiyegbeni – Hat-trick hero


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Nigerian Yakubu Aiyegbeni is the only African who has scored the most EPL hat-tricks, with four for three clubs. His first was in May 2004 for Portsmouth against Middleborough in a 5-1 win where he scored four goals while his second came in a 4-3 win over Fulham the next season. He later scored a hat-trick for Everton against Fulham in a 3-0 win three years later and his final hat-trick came in December 2011, where he scored four for Blackburn Rovers in a 4-2 victory over Swansea City.

Sadio Mane – Fastest hat-trick


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Senegalese striker Sadio Mane holds the record for the fastest Premier League hat-trick. He netted three times for Southampton in May 2015 against Aston Villa in two minutes and 56 seconds, officially breaking the record previously held by Robbie Fowler.

Most Expensive: Mane also holds the record for the most expensive African player after Liverpool bought him for a record fee of 34M from Southampton in 2016.

Yaya Toure – Mr. Penalty


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Man City midfielder, Yaya Toure’s penalty against Hull City on Boxing Day put him in the record books as the player with the best penalty record in Premier League history with more than ten converted spot kicks to his name.

Toure has never missed a competitive penalty in his career, from his first for the Ivory Coast against Tanzania in 2013 to his strike against Hull City in December. He has scored 14 of his 14 spot kicks and boasts of a 100% penalty kick record during his time in England.

The record puts him ahead of Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, who has scored 25 of his 26 spot kicks (96%) and former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs midfielder Danny Murphy’s 18/19 (95%) record.

Riyad Mahrez – PFA Player of the Year


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Riyad Mahrez became the first African player to win the Professional Footballer Association (PFA) Player of the Year award. The Algerian was awarded for his contribution to Leicester City’s historic season. The 25-year-old scored 17 goals to help Leicester win the Premier League title last season.

Samuel Eto’o – Most decorated.


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Eto’o is the most decorated African player of all time. He has won a record four continental player-of-the-year trophies, is the all-time leading scorer in the African Cup of Nations, played in an African-record fourth World Cup, finished third in the world player-of-the-year balloting in 2005, scored more than 100 times in five seasons with Barcelona and is one of only two players to score in two Champions League finals.

Essam El-Hadary – Oldest player at AFCON


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Essam El-Hadary became the oldest player in the history of the tournament after he replaced an injured Ahmed El-Shenawy in the 25th minute of the 2017 Gabon AFCON games. He made his debut for Egypt in 1996 and has 147 caps under his belt behind Spain’s Iker Casillas and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon on the list of active players.

Most appearances by an African national in the European Champions Clubs’ Cup/UEFA Champions League (including qualification)
Didier Drogba (Marseille, Chelsea, Galatasaray) has 94 appearances and is the top-scorer from an African in the same competition with 44 goals.

First African player to win a UEFA club competition
South Africa’s Derek Smethurst (Chelsea 3-2 Real Madrid) won it in 1971 in the European Cup.

First African player to feature in a UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League final
Abdelkrim Merry of Morocco  (Bastia 0-3 PSV, 1978)

First African player to win (or feature) in a European Champion Clubs’ Cup final
Bruce Grobbelaar from Zimbabwe (Roma 1-1 Liverpool where the latter won 4-2 on penalties, 1983/84)

First African player to score in a European Champion Clubs’ Cup final
Rabah Madjer (Algeria – Bayern 1-2 Porto, 1986/87)

First African player to win the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League
Taribo West from Nigeria (Lazio 0-3 Internazionale, 1998)


Wayde van Niekerk – A 400m world record

Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa presents his gold medal as he poses on the podium after the men's 400 metres final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, August 27, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

REUTERS/Damir Sagol

South African Wayde Van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record – regarded as the toughest record to beat at the time – to win a memorable gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The sprinter dusted off two of the greatest one-lap runners of this era and finished in 43.03 seconds — 0.15 seconds faster than what Johnson ran in 1999.

Almaz Ayana – Women’s 10,000m world record

during day nine of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 30, 2015 in Beijing, China.

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Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana shattered the 10,000m world record which stood since 1993. Her time of 29 minutes, 17.45 seconds lowered the world record by more than 14 seconds.



Featured photo: Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon. (Gallo Images)

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