Haile Gebrselassie – Long Distance Track Legend (Ethiopia)
Geb, as he’s affectionately known, personifies the African spectacle of talent in world long-distance track contests. The man who’s humble beginnings made him into the legend he is today, has enjoyed a much-honoured athletics career spanning over 20 years.
At a point in his prime, he had over 60 Ethiopian national records tucked firmly under his belt and he had set 27 world records. This legend is the man who, at the age of 35, obliterated his own record at the Berlin Marathon, an event he had previously won 4 times in consecutive years.
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Now approaching 41 years of age and having made a victorious return from retirement, it’s unclear as to when his running legs will finally take a break. A true legend!
Maria Mutola – The Maputo Express (Mozambique)
It would seem hard to believe that The Maputo Express only attained her first Olympic gold medal at the Sydney Olympics 2000. Winning her first international gold at the World Indoor Championsips in 1993, this 800m track champion was in the scene long before her first Olympic accolade.
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At 15 she was already on the world stage, coming 5th at the 1988 Summer Olympics. In 1990, at 17, she took gold at the African Championships. In subsequent years, Mutola ruled the 800m women’s event, earning herself acknowledgement as the “greatest female 800m athlete of all time”.
George Weah (Liberia)
Considered by many to be Africa’s greatest ever football export, this three-time African Footballer Of The Year showed his skill at the beautiful game under the banners of AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City.
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In an 18 year career, peppered with 193 goals in 411 appearances George Weah has scored some of the most electrifying goals in the sport (including a field-length run for AC Milan against Verona).
Makhaya Ntini (South Africa)
Ntini broke ground as the first player of African descent to make it into the white-dominated South African cricket team.
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His aggressive bowling attack and efficient fielding abilities earned him a permanent place in the Proteas from 1998-2009. During this time, he overcame legal problems, spoke out against racism in the sport and set a national record of the most wickets taken by a South African cricketer in a test match – 13/132.
Frankie Fredericks (Namibia)
Namibia’s only serious medal contender in world athletics, this 100m & 200m juggernaut attained podium finishes in the Olympics, All-Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and World Indoor Championships from 1991-2002. Fredericks holds the Commonwealth 200m record that he set in 1994.
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Although, sometimes falling short of gold, his consistent podium finishes and humility qualify him as a true Africa ambassador to track sports.
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Known for his physical strength, ball retaining skills and long distance goals, Didier Yves Drogba Tébily is a complete footballer. At 21, he started his professional football career at French club Le Mans – a relatively late age for professional football.
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But within 2 years he was signed by Chelsea Football Club where his 8 year tenure earned him the accolade of being the club’s “greatest ever player” according to Chelsea fans.
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
4-time African Footballer Of The Year, all-time leading goal scorer in the Africa Cup Of Nations and Olympic gold medallist Samuel Eto’o is undoubtedly the most decorated footballer from the mother continent.
A professional career sharpened and shaped at Real Madrid at the age of 16 he played for numerous clubs before landed at FC Barcelona where he displayed some of his most memorable professional performances. In his 5 years at the Spanish club, he scored 108 goals in 145 appearances.
Lucas Radebe (South Africa)
The Chief or Rhoo, as he is affectionately known, was a goalkeeper at South Africa’s Soweto giant Kaizer Chiefs before being recruited to play for Leeds United FC. It was at Leeds that he spent 11 years of his career and eventually being named captain of the side 4 later. In his time at Leeds a talismanic figure in the team, a feared defender and a beloved icon to the Leeds United fans. Under his leadership, Leeds enjoyed a period of reasonable success.
In his first year as captain, he led the team to UEFA Cup qualification and, in the following year, the team finished 3rd in the Premiership League thereby qualifying them for the Champions League where they ascended as far as the semis.
Locally, Radebe was part of the first South Africa national team to play international football since the removal of sanctions.
Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)
Kenenisa Bekele is one of the most successful long distance runners in history. This homeboy of other greats like Haile Gebrselassie may be our youngest legend but doesn’t fall short of legendary accomplishment.
His accolades include 3 Olympic gold medals in the 5000m & 10,000m events, 5 gold medals in the IAAF World Championships, 11 gold medals in the World Cross Country Championships and 2 gold medals in the African Championships.
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Kipchoge Keino (Kenya)
One of the first in a long lineage of powerful long-distance runners to come from Kenya, this retired two-time Olympic gold-medallist defines the word ‘inspiration’. Keino ascended to fame through his gold medals at the All-Africa Games and Commonwealth Games of 1965 and 1966 respectively.
Within a space of 8 years, “Kip” took podium finishes in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and the All Africa Games including 7 golds, 3 silvers and one bronze.
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