In the last ten years there has been an explosion in the number of black players playing in the top European leagues, particularly in the French and English leagues. The reasons for this are complex, but they are largely social-cultural. To start with, increased opportunities due to anti-racism programs and the globalizing of the game (ten years ago, the majority of players in the English league, for instance, were British, but now the majority of them are foreign born). Secondly, sport is a huge part of black culture, and an avenue in which many young black kids go down. This is quite different in the Asian world, for instance, where playing sports to reach a professional level is much less important and not so encouraged.
Whilst black players are not inherently better than players of any other race (take the World Cup of 2010 as an example), they are massively represented now in many of the European leagues. The French league is over 50% black and the English league is about 35% black. Plenty of great black players are having the chance to shine, and there are a small number of players who have reached super-star status too, which I have listed below.
1 – Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan). Probably the best black player of the last decade, the soccer scoreboards showed that this striker from Cameroon helped Barcelona win the European Cup, and then relatively recently moved to Italy, where he is continuing his great career. Extremely skillful and with a deft touch, he has caused havoc to defenses for years.
2 – Theirry Henry (New York Bulls). One of my all time favourite strikers. His Arsenal days were converted with glory. Not only did he score tons of goals, but he scored tons of really spectacular goals. He is one of those few players who knows exactly where the ball needs to be placed and who can put it there with unnerving ease and consistency. He has now followed Beckam’s lead and is finishing out his career in the U.S.
3- Didier Drogba (Chelsea). Although he only reached prominence in the second half of his career, since then Drogba has been scoring goals for fun. Widely considered as one of the top five strikers in the Premier League, his predatory instincts are as good as anyones in the game. Unfortunately, however, he has not performed so well for his native Ivory Coast.
4 – Michael Essien (Chelsea). This tough Ghanaian midfielder is considered one of the very best all-round midfielders in the Premier League. He is extremely reliable, rarely misses a pass, and a very tough tackler. Like Drogba, however, he has not performed so well for his national team as yet.
5 – Yaya Toure (Man City). Anyone who can hold down a starting place in the Barcelona midfield must be special. Until his move to Manchester City, Toure was part of the best midfield in the world, with Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. He is a big tough player who defends well and turns defense into attack with fantastic speed. He has settled into his new team now and is putting in some excellent performances.
6 – Ashley Cole (Chelsea). Actually only half-black, but that will do for the purposes of this list, Cole has been one of the best performing left backs for nearly a decade now. Many consider him to be the number 2 left back in the world after the German Philip Lahm. He is very quick and very hard to get round. Just ask Ronaldo!
7 – Ronaldinhio (AC Milan). Only part black, but never mind! He was close to becoming one of the top five greatest players ever, but then his career went into a fast decline just as he was about to be awarded such an (unofficial) status. One of the most skillful players I have ever seen, and without doubt one of the most enjoyable to watch. His Barcelona days were the greatest, but then injuries and distractions took their toll. In any case, he is still playing for one of Europe’s greatest teams, and putting in some fantastic performances.
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