Over 23 years ago, when the Premier League was formed, little did the world know that the EPL would one day generate so much interest on the African continent. Today it may surprise you that Chelsea football club in England has an estimated 50 million fan base in West Africa; far more than 18.6 million in the UK and 22.8 million in Eastern Europe.
Little did any one predict that this league’s popularity would stretch as far as a small suburb in West Africa named Nyinanyin. The crave and craze is really astonishing; for example, the story has it that, Seth Ofori a TV repairer, caused outrage in the village where he chased his wife from their marital home because she insisted that Arsenal played better football than Chelsea. After three days of negotiations, the elders and Ofori agreed to take back his wife on one condition; that his wife apologize to him, and acknowledge that Chelsea was better than Arsenal. From then on, she must become a Blue! True story!
And true that today the influence of the African player on the EPL has grown significantly. At the beginning of the season’s opening weekend, Africans players scored nine of the 30 goals, with big names like Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure, Ghana's Andre Ayew and Senegal's Papiss Cisse all finding the back of the net.
Now, at the onset of the January transfer window, there is the likelihood of even more players from the continent joining the frenzy in England.
Currently, a total of 45 Africans are in the Premier League, with an outstanding representation in 17 of the 20 clubs which is an increment from the 37 in the 2014-2015 season.
The peculiar romance between Chelsea and fans in the West African sub-region could probably be a good harbinger. Those who got attracted to the league earlier would point to the days when Chelsea first signed Nigerian player, Celestine Babayaro in 1997, where he became an instance success with the team. George Weah followed suit later and his quality of a player that made him win the world best player in 1995 definitely sparked a revolution that made Chelsea managers like Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli begin to scout the West African region for more quality players. In turn, fans in the sub region began to show interest in this Multi-racial club in England, which they preferred to call the ‘UN team’ because of the number of foreign players they had to the detriment of English players.
When Jose Mourinho became the manager, he roped in some of the top stars from West Africa, including Michael Essien of Ghana, Solomon Kalou, Didier Drogba both of Cote d’Ivoire and John Mikel Obi of Nigeria.
He was not the only coach that had that kind of eye. Alan Pardew has also been touted as a huge fan of African talent, even drawing criticism when he was at Newcastle for signing too many African players. He defended his faith by saying that English players were overpriced.
So let’s take a look at the EPL team that has the most African players.
The Key new arrivals are:
Ghana's Andrew Ayew joined Swansea on free a transfer from Olympique Marseille, his younger brother, Jordan Ayew came from, L’orient, and compatriot Baba Abdul Rahman at Chelsea, from Augsburg.
The others are;
Senegalese defender Papy Djilobodji, Nantes to Chelsea.
DR Congo striker Dieumerci Mbokani, Dynamo Kyiv to Norwich
DR Congo's Chancel Mbemba , Anderlecht to Newcastle
Ivory Coast's Max Gradel, St-Etienne to Bournemouth
The Teams which tops the EPL table for most African players?
Crystal Place with five:
Yannick Bolasie (DR Congo)
Pape Souare (Senegal)
Marouane Chamakh (Morocco)
Kwesi Appiah (Ghana)
Bakary Sako (Mali)
Crystal Palace is managed by Alan Pardew and is little surprise that his team lead the pack with the most African talent.
Chelsea are in second spot, with four, who are:
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria)
Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)
Baba Rahman (Ghana)
Papy Djilobodji (Senegal)
The Blues have a strong African tradition which dates back to the time of George Weah and Celestine Babayaro.
West Ham, who also have four African players have a history of signing African players, follow suit with;
Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)
Diafra Sakho (Senegal)
Victor Moses (Nigeria)
Alex Song (Cameroon).
Newcastle United who have a tradition of courting African talents since the time of Nigerian veteran Celestine Babayaro who left Chelsea to join the Magpies in 2005. They follow up with these players, namely;
Papiss Cisse (Senegal)
Cheick Tiote (Ivory Coast)
Chancel Mbemba (DR Congo).
Sebastien Bassong (Cameroon)
Youssouf Mulumbu (DR Congo)
Dieumerci Mbokani (DR Congo).
Adlene Guedioura (Algeria)
Allan Nyom (Cameroon)
Odion Ighalo (Nigeria).
Christian Atsu (Ghana)
Tokelo Rantie (South Africa)
Max Gradel (Ivory Coast).
So you see in Africa, a typical weekend for a soccer fan comprises of placing his bet for the day and heading to a “sports” bar, munch some pop-corn and hang around till the game is over.
At the end of the match they slowly walk back home in groups as they analyze the matches until the next fixture.