African continental football is filled with players of the people, the voices of the voiceless. Most of these men are found uncomplainingly roaming the sometimes sub-standard stadiums in preliminary rounds in Seychelles to the grandness of the boiling Borg El Arab in the latter stages. Yet they maintain the same level of performance. Game after game. Year after year. Military flight after military flight. Good enough for Africa, perhaps not quite good enough, or just too good, for Europe. Here, Salim salutes these mute miracle men.
Nelson Lukong Bongaman
When you think Cameroonian goalkeepers you think Thomas N’Kono, Joseph Antoine-Bell, Jacques Songo’o, and Andre Onana. “Where have all the caneroonian goalkeepers gone between Songo’o and Onana!?” The masses cry. “Wasted generation!” Let’s not mention Idriss Kameni. Step forward Nelson Lukong Bongaman.
The 38-year-old has been playing his football for AS Vita Club in DR Congo for 10 years and it’s no exaggeration that he can make a case for being the most unheralded African goalkeeper of the last decade. Agile, and defiant on his day, he, together with coach Florentine ‘Black Ancelotti’ Ibenge, have been there all the way in the re-emergence of AS Vita Club.
The year is 3050 and Sameh Derbali is still starting for Esperance at right back, shutting out sides alongside his comrades Khalil Chemmam and Moez Ben Cherifia. Like the very best African domestic football bandieras, you can forget Derbali exists. But he sure does – and he has 2 CL titles to show for it, seven years apart.
Such is his dedication to the continent that he timed his move to Al Ahly at the peak of his career, depriving Europe of ever getting him. That’s more than fine by us. Coulibaly has been through the full works, from CAF Confederation Cup glory with Djoliba to a CL title with TP Mazembe. He’s the gentle giant your son or little bother has a kick about with.
In every team you need a player Who Gets It. Chemmam has ‘got it’ ever since he made his debut for Esperance, and probably long before that. The Esperance captain is somewhat of a utility man along the back line yet has never quite had the bells and whistles to regularly hold a place down for Tunisia.
Chemmam is a bona-fide bandiera despite a brief spell in Portugal where he saw the light. At 31 you’d think he will end his career at Esperance.
Mr TP Mazembe, one of the ultimate bandieras in Africa. Quietly goes about his business, quietly elite in continental times – and he has also showed his workings at AFCONs with DR Congo. He has never left African shores and he has never, to our knowledge, even had a flirtation with a foreign club.
Unsurprisingly, the left back could play another 30 years and he wouldn’t get the adulation he deserves. Those damn millennials, eh. Fortunately we here at SFG appreciate him and wish him all the best in his career in politics.
You can’t be taken seriously as African Champions League contender if you don’t have a ‘bodyguard’ in your midfield. And no bodyguards do their job better and consistently than Kom, who screens his defence and provides the occasional moments of soothing poise.An unsuccessful spell at Karlsruhe in Germany and a swift return to Esperance just goes to show how much he loves the continent.
Watching Brahim Nekkach is a brutal experience. You certainly can’t say you have watched a Wydad Casablanca game unless the rampaging Nekkach has tackled an opponent in half because they have had the audacity to breathe in his midfield territory.Like all the notorious midfielders, Nekkach is that bad cop that will kick anything that moves. Without these dark arts you can’t help but feel that Wydad Casablanca 2017 continent triumph may never happened.
At times it can seem like Ashour is loved by no one and hated by everyone. The Al Ahly captain has been in their ranks since his childhood but in recent years he has come to symbolise more than just being a bandiera.
He has been the link between the past generation of Al Ahly and the current generation, able to turn on the required performances when it matters most. Ashour is showing no signs of slowing down and so long as he’s around you’d bet Al Ahly will continue doing what they do best.
Still is in his mid 20s, Hafidi is one of those players that has been around for so long that if he was from anywhere else in Africa there would be suspicions about his real age. From the sizzling football under Faouzi Benzarti as a highly rated youngster to the glittering stuff under Juan Carlos Garrido as a fully blossomed maestro, Hafidi has embodied the style and swagger Raja are renowned for.
No hard running, no blistering pace, just the repertoire of flicks and through balls that set others free. That long injury history? Pffft! Deep down we all know he just doesn’t want to play in Europe.
He certainly laid one thing to rest in Algeria’s last World Cup appearance: that locally-based players can’t mix it up on the world stage. Then he packed his bags and returned to the continent to strut his stuff with the likes of Club Africain and ES Setif. Class.
A player so familiar yet so mysterious. Going from wonderkid to elite on the continent but with no worries that he would ever move to Europe. The reason for that career decision was apparently money-motivated – he was on too much to ever leave his kingdom in Kinshasa.
He did leave in the end but only to stay in the continent. We had thought that was that, when he went to Angola to earn some mega bucks, only for him to turn up again at TP Mazembe, twisting and turning seasoned defenders with the cheeky-chappiness we never tire of.