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Paying Tribute to Famous African Sportsmen

Sports in Africa is more lucrative and competitive than it used to be, thanks to dedicated African sportsmen and sportswomen who work hard to put African sports in the limelight.

In this article, we are paying tribute to famous African sportsmen and sportswomen who successfully molded African sports into what it is today. These people worked against the unique obstacles (poverty, corruption and civil wars) that threaten to stunt the growth of the sports industry in Africa.

In no particular order, here is a curated list of ten famous African sportsmen, sportswomen and famous African female athletes of all time.

African Sportsmen Derartu-tulu

Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast

Apart from wining the African Football Player of the Year Award twice, (2006 and 2009), Drogba is mostly known for his impressive football career at Chelsea, where he scored more goals than any foreign player. He is currently the the fourth highest goal scorer of all time in Chelsea Football Club.

African Sportsmen Didier drogba

Portia Modise, South Africa

Portia will always be remembered as the first African female football player to score 100 international goals. In 2005, she was nominated for the Women’s FIFA World Player of the Year Award. Portia retired from international football in 2015, after scoring 101 goals for South Africa.

African Sportsmen

Jay Jay Okocha, Nigeria

Although Jay Jay Okocha was regarded as the best African football player of all time, he never won the African Player of the Year Award. Jay Jay Okocha played as an attacking midfielder for the Super Eagles and was popularly known for his dribbling skills and use of feints.

Jay Jay won the inaugural BBC African Footballer of the Year twice in succession and became the only player to do so till date. In 2004, he was added in Pele’s FIFA 100 list of Greatest Living Players of all Time. In 2007, he was listed as the 12th Greatest African Footballer of the Last 50 Years.

African Sportsmen

Derartu Tulu, Ethiopia

Derartu is the first African female athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. This happened in 1992, after she won the women’s 10,000 meters race at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.

In 2000, She won a gold medal at the summer Olympics at Sydney and in 2004, she won a bronze medal at the summer Olympics in Athens Greece. Derartu later transitioned to marathon which got her gold medals at London, Tokyo and New York. Derartu retired in 2011, after running competitively into her thirties.

African Sportsmen Maria mutola

Maria Mutola, Mozambique

Fondly called the Maputo Express, Maria is known to be the greatest female 800m athlete of all time, a title she earned for her consistent and unrivaled performance in almost twenty years of competitive sports.

Maria is also the fourth athlete to compete at six Olympic Games, a three-time World Champion and a one-time Olympic Champion. Maria retired in 2008, after 21 years of participating in competitive sports.

African Sportsmen Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia

Haile, fondly called Geb, is widely known as the greatest distance runner in history. He is also known for breaking 61 Ethiopian national records, setting 27 world records and for winning the Berlin Marathon with a world record time of 2:03:59. The record stood for three years.

Geb gained international recognition in 1992 and for the next 25 years went on to claim two Olympic gold medals, eight World Championship victories and set 27 world records. His most notable world records include the 20,000m, the one-hour race and 10 mile run.

South African Makhaya Ntini takes a bo
(Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

Makhaya Intini, South Africa

Makhaya is known as the first black cricketeer to play in the South African cricket team. He is also the third South African to take 300 test wickets and to reach second place in the ICC test match bowling ratings.

African Sportsmen Kirsty leigh coventry

Kirsty Leigh Coventry, Zimbabwe

Kirsty is fondly called Zimbabwe’s national treasure. After winning four Olympic medals at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe awarded her US $100,000 in cash and gave her the title, “golden girl.”

With seven olympic medals, Kirsty is also known as the most decorated Olympics from Africa. She is also the winner of the most individual Olympic medals in women’s swimming, a title she shares with Krisztina Egerszegi from Hungary.

African Sportsmen Kenenisa bekele

Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia

Kenenisa is a long distance runner and current world record and Olympic record holder in both the 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter event. He became the first man to win both 5,000 and 10,000th title at the same championship.

With six 12km and five 4 km course titles, Kenenisa is the most successful runner in IAAF World Cross Country Championships history. He is also known for equaling Haile Gebrselassie’s four in a row win streak, after winning the 10,000 m title at the World Championships in athletics in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009.

African Sportsmen Tirunesh Dibaba

Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia

Tirunesh is popularly called the Baby Face Destroyer. Tirunesh comes from a family line of long distance runners. She has won three Olympic titles, five World Championships and four cross country championship.

She is also the current 5000m world record holder and is the only athlete to win the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in the same edition of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. In 2017, she became the third fastest woman in history during the Marathon distance runner in London.

We celebrate Africa for producing some of the bravest, skilled and famous African sportsmen of all time!