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Five African Players Who Became World Class Without Playing in Europe

A look at the world class African players who attained this status without ever playing in Europe.

It’s often a shared notion that African footballers are only considered successful if they go on to play in Europe where the game is believed to be a lot more developed. However, there are some who’ve stayed on the continent and still became world class. Ducor Sports digs into these home-grown successful stars.


Topping our list is Wael Gomaa. Born in Egypt 42 years ago, the former center-back is a two-club man, spending his whole career in his native Cairo, appearing to explain his commitment to the African game. Whether this was how he wanted his career to pan out is a puzzle to the press.


What’s clear though is that he had pre-season trials with then English Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers but nothing came of it. A Sergio Ramos in his days, the former Ghazal –El- Mahalla is considered Africa’s most decorated player with twenty-eight (28) major honors, all of it achieved in a 21-year career, sixteen of it spent at  Al Ahly Cairo.

These gongs include the Egyptian Premier League title (won eight times), the Egyptian Cup (three times), the Egyptian Super Cup (six times) and the CAF Champions League and Super Cup, won six and five times respectively. Known for his excellent headers and passing accuracy, the Mahalla-born was integral in the moments Egypt conquered African football, securing the Nations Cup with the Pharaohs three times. Consequently, it is little surprise then that he’s capped 117 times for the North African giants, scoring just one goal which came against Kenya.


segun-odegbamiPatrick Segun Odegbami is his full name and Mathematical his moniker.

Born in Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos, Segun is rated as one of Nigeria’s greatest players. Now a 66-year-old, Mathematical is the type that excelled at both football and education. A graduate of Polytechnic University in Engineering, hence his sobriquet, Segun is capped 47 times for Nigeria, scoring 23 goals for the Super Eagles. When the West Africans won their maiden Cup of Nations trophy in 1980, the striker was the heartbeat of the team. Football runs in his blood. His brother Wole also fared for the Eagles but Mathematical is the more recognized of the two. Like Gomaa, the retired forward never played in Europe, spending his entire career in Nigeria.


One of the greatest Zambian players of all times, Chitalu would have been 72 years by now if he were alive.

godfrey-chitaluCoach of the Zambia national team that plunged into the sea in a plane crash in 1993, Godfrey made it into CAF’s 200 best African Footballers’ of the last 50 years list in 2006 and holds the record for the most goals scored by a player in the Chipolopolo’s squad, a combined 79. The African press had rarely looked at his statistics until Barca’s Messi claimed to have more goals in a single calendar year. The Zambian FA took up the matter with FIFA insisting their own Godfrey holds the record with 116 goals. FIFA replied saying records aren’t given based on domestic competitions.


African home-based greats do not get the adulations their compatriots in European leagues are showered with. This is attributed to the low regard given to leagues at home, a setback worsened by poor TV coverage and sponsorship.


Uganda’s Denis Onyango is one such not given an ounce of media light across Africa. A career journey spanning back during his time at Nsambya, Villa SC then Ethiopia’s Saint George SA, Denis’ craft took off at Supersport United retaining that consistency at Black Aces, Bidest Wits before joining Mamelodi Sundowns in 2011 in a fee which pundits still consider a bargain for the South African Brazilians.

Voted once as Africa’s best home-based player, the Ugandan legend made the International Federation of Football History and Statistics’ cut for the world top-ten best net-minders in 2016. At 33, with eight honors including a Champions League winners’ medal, his €1m market valuation speaks vividly of his worth and contributions. Onyango’s case tells of a tale that a player need not only play in Europe to be recognized. Itumeleng Khune, Kaizer Chiefs’ goalkeeper, also falls under the category of players who made it big in Africa without exploring football overseas as well as retired Robert Kidiaba Muteba, one-time DR Congo and TP Mazembe icon.


In counting down of the continent’s very finest, he could get a top-five rating but in Algeria, he is an all-time best. An attacking midfielder his heydays, Belloumi has 34 goals in Algeria’s jersey but only 27 of those are recognized by FIFA.

lakhdar-belloumiIn times when everything good out of football is given a Western lining, an African player is credited for an ingenuity. Lakhdar is said to be the man who invented the “blind pass” that has come to be so used in the modern game, taken to ridiculous levels by Jay Jay Ockocha, Zidane and Ronaldinho at the height of their powers.

He shot to prominence in the Western media when his sumptuous goal earned Algeria a 2-1 win over then European champions West Germany in 1982. The current star of Algeria, Riyad Mahrez, can perhaps learn a thing or two from him.

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