By Nicola D’Ambrosio
Football Writer, kick442.com-Italy.
Italy has always been a country that has welcomed many of the African stars in our championship, the Serie A, but also in the minor leagues. Maybe nobody will remember who was the first, though. Well, this is François Zahoui, who grew up in the Stella Club of Abidjan, a team from the capital of his country, Zahoui was discovered by Ascoli observers at the 1981 Marseille Tournament. He said in an interview as soon as he arrived in Italy: « I’m not a goleador. I play with the number 10 and I know how to pass the ball well to my teammates. I score some goals too, but not many »
Let’s go back together, a list of 10 players who fought on the football fields of Serie A, some more famous and others forgotten. ..
1) Phil Masinga (South Africa)
Salerno was the first stop for Masinga, the beginning of a four-year period between lights and shadows with Bari. The Apulians had the intuition to bring him to Italy in the summer of 1997, scrutinizing in this center-forward of power and discrete progression a talent not yet emerged between Leeds and St. Gallen, and were repaid in the first season: 11 goals and quiet salvation. Then, thanks to the explosion of a certain Cassano and a long theory of injuries, Masinga gradually lost contact with the field, failing to prevent the relegation of 2001.
However, at home he was among the most loved players, also for the long National militancy. Unfortunately he died last year at just 49 years old.
2) Rachid Neqrouz ( Marocco)
Taking a step back, and remembering a teammate from Masinga, in the ranks of Bari, directly from northern Africa, the Moroccan Rachid Neqrouz defended the colours of the club for six years at San Nicola.
He equally distinguished by a discreet ability to know covering both the role of defensive center and full-back and covering the role of captain from 2000 until his retirement in 2003 (159 appearances and six goals).
He was included in his country’s USA 94 and France 98 World Cup squads [where he has never set foot in field] .
He is especially remembered for that vicious marking with a touch of buttock to the “damage” of the Juventus striker, Filippo Inzaghi, in a Bari-Juventus game finished 0-5 on 19 October 1997.
Strange randomness but Inzaghi did not enter the scoring even one once, despite the score.
3) Gabi Mudingayi (Democratic Republic of Congo)
An adventure that began with injuries, continued on the same note with a bitter relegation of Cesena, when the good times were long gone.
Belgian by passport, but Congolese by birth, and Italian by football adoption, after the first steps with Gent, Gaby has tied his entire career to Italy.
He arrived at Torino in Serie B in January 2004, he injured himself in the first game, but then he returned and was a protagonist in the promotion season which was easily forgotten after the failure of the next season.
He later joined Lazio as a free agent, where he became a hero for three years, thanks to his spontaneous generosity, typical of the midfield mastery that went beyond his technical limits.
He moved Bologna and the theoretical leap in quality at Inter, where however tore his Achilles Tendon, and disappeared from the scene for two years.
He has since retired and is enjoying the quiet life of retirement.
4) Saliou Lassissi (Ivorian)
The Ivorian defender seemed to have a bright future ahead of him when he first came. Signed from Parma in 1998, he played the first season at Sampdoria, before returning to Emilia where he won the Italian Super Cup against Milan in 1999. He switched to Fiorentina and was among the protagonists of the success in the Italian Cup against his former club, Parma.
After finishing the vintages season with the viola, he joined Roma where he won another Italian Super Cup, but an injury in a friendly definitely compromised his career.
5) Christian Obodo (Nigeria)
The Nigerian, had its best football days between Perugia, Fiorentina but above all Udinese. He started with Perugia in the Gaucci era, contributing to the conquest of scudeto and the Italian Cup semi-finals in the then team coached by Serse Cosmi.
He continued in the “Viola” where he made 33 appearances and scored two goals but, at the end of the season, the team was unable to keep their Serie A place.
He moved to Udinese and took part in the 2005/2006 UEFA Champions League, featuring in 41 games.
In the 2006/2007 season he interrupted the positive streak of 17 consecutive Inter victories, scoring with a crazy reversal from the film library. His injuries and further reconstructions after a brief re-tasting of the field compromise its last season at Udinese and subsequent experiences at Turino and Lecce weren’t memorable.
6) Mohammed Kallon (Sierra Leone)
Sierra Leone striker, and that anachronistic number 2 was a joy to watch. He mature play hit the peak in his days at Reggina.
At the club, he scored the first historic goal of Reggina in Serie A, at Delle Alpi, in a 1-1 Juventus-Reggina.
He will complete the season with 30 appearances and 11 goals. He later played for Inter after a season in Vicenza (and his own goal against the Nerazzurri), in the summer of 2001.
Ronaldo and Vieri were out and it’s up to him and Ventola to drag Hector Cuper’s team to the Scudetto race: He scored a brace against Perugia and continued with the brilliant idea performances that season (14 of 43 appearances).
At the beginning of the 2003/2004 season, he was ban for six months following an anti-doping check,that ended his Italian experience.
7) Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)
If he is still alive, even before he has been able to continue playing football, he owes it to Italy.
The careful medical checks which revealed a serious heart disease, incredibly went unnoticed by the Ajax medical staffs where he first displayed his talent at 17.
But rhetoric on the gratitude side Nwankwo was first to understand that from a technical point of view he was good. After stopping for two years, there was no was no place for him in Moratti’s side when he returned forcing a move away.
He moved to Arsenal, where in six seasons he has established himself as the strongest exponent of the golden generation of Super Eagles, perhaps unrepeatable. Neither the technique of Amunike and Finidi George, or the geometries of Sunday Oliseh, in Italy with Reggiana and Juventus, have equaled the peculiarities of Kanu, striker of exceptional technique and mobility, despite a wading physique, obviously exploited in the aerial game.
8) Pierre Aubameyang (Gabon)
The timing was simply wrong. Or rather, they weren’t right, because quality players have to be taken ahead of the competition, but if you don’t have the patience to wait for them … Pierre-Erick actually started playing with Milan, joining Primavera in January 2007, still a minor. Hurry up on a tour in Malaysia, but that’s not enough. So, off to the loan theory: Dijon, Lille, Monaco and Saint-Etienne who redeemed it in December 2011. End of story, after less than five years of love never blossomed.
And, by magic, the boy explodes, scoring over 60 goals in a four-year period including those in the last two seasons at Borussia Dortmund, where the international consecration arrives. He also passed for the choice of representing his African roots, and not the French, homeland of birth. Today we all know where Pierre went.
9)Abedi Ayew “Pelè” (Ghana )
He arrived in the Serie A only at the end of his career, after winning individual prizes in quantity, and having been an idol at Olympique Marseille, beyond the Champions won in ’93 against Milan, but then subtracted for the scandal-Tapie . But Abedi did in time anyway, at least in the first of the two seasons at Turin (’94 -96, 13 goals), to show that that nickname was certainly playful, but also inspired by the undoubted technical qualities of those who lead the rankings many Ghanaians landed in Italy.
Number 10 on the shoulders, swiftness of legs and execution, lethal in the placed kicks, Pele was able to be one of the last complete fantasists, but still midfielders, while finding the net with ease, before the performers of the role turned into second forwards. Pele is a sports manager in his country.
10) Patrick Mboma (Cameroon )
One above all, however, deserves a special mention: Patrick MBoma! 47 years, 33 goals in 56 appearances with the shirt of Cameroon and your rise to Italian football, thanks to that Cellino who promised him the essential benefits to bring him to the island team, with him who returned by presenting himself at the time of signing with an Italian flawless. Amarcord for his hat-trick on 21 March 1999 in a Cagliari-Empoli finished 5-1, 15 goals overall in two years and the score of six goals as the best scorer of the Italian cup in the second season. Less brilliant seasons in Parma, where he could not repeat himself, thanks to the decidedly valid competition.
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