7 Best Goalkeepers in the History of African Football
In the world of soccer/football, goalkeepers often find themselves in the spotlight, either as heroes or villains. They are the final line of defence and bear the weight of the game’s outcome. The position of a goalkeeper requires a unique blend of skills, athleticism, and mental toughness to excel.
Throughout the history of African football, numerous goalkeepers have become legendary figures, leaving an indelible mark on the sport. Bleacher Report highlights the seven finest African shot-stoppers to grace the game. Let’s take a closer look at these remarkable individuals.
- Carlos Kameni – Cameroon
Carlos Kameni, hailing from Cameroon, showcased his talent by making over 200 league appearances for La Liga club Espanyol before moving to Malaga in 2012. After five years with Malaga, he joined Turkish side Fenerbahce in 2017. Notably, Kameni played a crucial role in Cameroon’s football gold victory at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and helped the Indomitable Lions secure second place in the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France.
- Vincent Enyeama – Nigeria
Vincent Enyeama, the former captain of the Nigerian national team, holds the record for the most appearances for the Super Eagles, having played 101 times. His career spanned from 2002 to 2015. Enyeama contributed to Nigeria’s triumph in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and was recognized as the tournament’s best team. At the club level, he succeeded with Enyimba, winning the CAF Champions League twice. He later joined Hapoel Tel Aviv, where he won the ‘Player of the Year award in 2009 and secured the league and cup double the following season.
- Ezzaki Badou – Morocco
Ezzaki Badou, widely known as Zaki, is a Moroccan football icon who played professionally for 17 years. He represented clubs such as AS Salé, Wydad Casablanca, and FUS Rabat. However, his most exceptional performances were for RCD Mallorca in Spain. Zaki played over 160 league games for Mallorca from 1986 to 1992, earning him the title of African Footballer of the Year in 1986 as recognized by France Football.
He helped Mallorca gain promotion to La Liga in 1989 and became one of only two African goalkeepers to receive the prestigious Ricardo Zamora Trophy for his outstanding goals-to-games ratio. The IFFHS ranked Zaki as the fourth greatest African goalkeeper of the 20th century.
- Bruce Grobbelaar – Zimbabwe
Bruce Grobbelaar, from Zimbabwe, stands out as Africa’s most accomplished goalkeeper. With six English First Division (Premier League) titles and a European Cup (Champions League) victory to his name, Grobbelaar had an impressive career. He joined Liverpool in 1981 and proved to be an excellent successor to the legendary Ray Clemence. Notably, Grobbelaar played a pivotal role in Liverpool’s triumph in the 1984 European Cup final penalty shootout against Roma, denying Francesco Graziani the winning goal.
- Joseph-Antoine Bell – Cameroon
Joseph-Antoine Bell, another goalkeeper from Cameroon, enjoyed a stellar career that spanned over two decades. Bell showcased his strength, bravery, and skill as a sweeper keeper for the Indomitable Lions starting in 1977. Although he gained wider recognition when he joined Marseille in 1985, Bell also had successful spells with Toulon, Bordeaux, and Saint-Etienne during his six years in France.
- Thomas N’kono – Cameroon
Thomas N’kono, undeniably one of Africa’s greatest goalkeepers, has been an inspiration to many aspiring shot-stoppers. His heroics at the 1990 World Cup left a lasting impression on Gianluigi Buffon, who credits N’kono as the reason he became a goalkeeper. N’kono’s remarkable career spanned 23 years, including two AFCON victories and three World Cup appearances representing Cameroon.
- Essam El-Hadary – Egypt
At the top of the list is Essam El-Hadary, an Egyptian goalkeeper who played a crucial role in Al Ahly’s period of African dominance. With an illustrious career spanning several decades, El-Hadary won 16 domestic titles, seven African championships, and three Arab region titles with Al Ahly. He holds the record for the most appearances as Egypt’s goalkeeper, with 159 caps, and represented the Pharaohs in multiple AFCON tournaments. Notably, El-Hadary became the oldest participant in a World Cup match at the age of 45 and made history as the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty in the tournament’s history.
These seven goalkeepers have left an indelible mark on African football. Their skill, dedication, and accomplishments have solidified their places as some of the finest shot-stoppers the continent has ever seen.