1 - Ayew Abedi Pelé
Three Consecutive Golden
Boot Awards

Those who made fun of him when he was a child by calling him “cadogo” because of his small size undoubtedly bit their tongues later. Ayew Abedi would earn the prestigious nickname of Pelé in reference to the phenomenal Brazilian football star. At a young age he skipped school to join the Great Falcons of Accra, the team of his youth, and then the Real United of Tamale. His magical dribbling and amazing goals soon opened the doors of the Black Stars, Ghana’s national with whom he won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1982 at the tender age of twenty. Migration inherent in football careers took Ayew Abedi Pelé to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Switzerland, and then France where he played with Niort FC, Mulhouse FC, Lille OSC, and ended up with the Olympique de Marseille.
In 1990 Abedi Pelé was elected African Golden Boot, a title he held for a record three consecutive years. His career reached a summit in 1993 when the OM became the first French team to win the European Champion Clubs’ Cup (now the Champion League). Facing the formidable Milan AC, Abedi made a decisive pass on the game’s only goal scored by his Franco-Ivorian friend Basile Boli. As captain of Ghana’s national team from 1992 to 1998, he shattered records for selection and goals scored. He ended is career in 2000 in the United Arab Emirates. Once back in Ghana he devoted his time to scouting and developing young football talent, and his sports centre has some eight hundred interns. As a sports consultant, Abedi Pelé can be seen on television networks in Ghana, Africa, and elsewhere in the world.

2 - Théophile Abéga
The Football “Doctor”

The former captain of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions won his country’s first Africa Cup of Nations title in 1984 in the Ivory Coast. That same year he was elected African Golden Boot. Known to dribble like a cat, this tireless midfielder and talented leader and organizer earned the nickname of “Doctor” from his team-mates. Théophile Abéga admired Johan Cruyff and Jean Tigana who like him also wore number 14; and like them, he had a vision of the game that included spectacular acceleration and strikes that have left enduring memories to all. Abéga started out however as a lark, playing with the Colombe of Sangmélima in southern Cameroon before joining the Canon of Yaoundé, the much storied team in Cameroon football. With that club he experienced the most thrilling times in his career, including two victories in the African Cup of Champion Clubs (1978 and 1980), and an Africa Cup Winners’ Cup (1979). Together with his friends Emmanuel Kundé, Roger Milla, René Ndjeya, and Thomas N’Kono, he was part of the expedition to the Football World Cup in 1982 in Spain. The Cameroon team charmed everybody in their first participation in a major world championship (three games without defeat), even though the ultra defensive system implemented by the French Coach Jean Vincent prevented them from deploying all their talent. In the Ivory Coast, however, for the 14th Africa Cup of Nations, the Yugoslavian coach Rade Ognanovic believed in the Cameroonian drive and spunk and Abéga lead the team to stardom throughout the continent. After a stint with professional football in Europe from 1984 to 1987, Théophile Abéga hung up his cleats in 1989 but stayed on with the Canon of Yaoundé that he now presides.

3 - John Akii-Bua
The First “Honour Lap” In History

Uganda’s first Olympic champion was born on December 3, 1949. John Akii-Bua began his career as 110-metre hurdler, but his English coach Malcolm Arnold encouraged him to move towards the 400-metre hurdles. In 1970 he finished fourth in the Commonwealth Games and then improved his performance in 1971. Due to his lack of experience, he was not very optimistic heading into the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. However, he succeeded in winning the gold medal and breaking the world record with a time of 47 min 82 s. Akii-Bua took an Ugandan flag that a spectator handed to him and ran another 400-meter lap, thereby introducing the now traditional “honour lap”.
The Ugandan government under dictator Idi Amin Dada did not appreciate the attention and honour paid to the athlete and he was soon sent to prison on trumped up charges. Uganda was among the African countries that honoured the boycott called against the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Some would say that one of the reasons was to prevent Akii-Bua from repeating his 1972 Olympic feat. The champion was later freed thanks to the intervention of his equipment supplier Puma, and he then settled in Germany until Idi Amin Dada was oustered in 1979. Akii-Bua returned home and died destitute in 1997 after a long illness. As the ultimate paradox, a state funeral was held for the hero but nobody gave the slightest thought about the distress and hardships facing the eleven children surviving him.

4 - Mahmoud Al-Khatib
450 Games Wihout A Red Card

Mahmoud Al-Khatib was the top scorer in the history of Africa Clubs Cups (37 goals) and is considered as the soul of both Cairo’s National Al-Ahly club and Egyptian football in general. He was born on October 30, 1954 in the city of Aga, Governorate of Dakahleya, and began playing football with the Al Nasr juniors of Heliopolis before joining the Al Ahly team in 1971. For sixteen years he was an offensive midfielder until he retired in 1987. With that team, Al-Khatib was Egyptian champion ten times and national cup winner four times. On the African continent under Al-Khatib’s leadership, the club won two African championships and three Africa Cup Winners’ Cups. “Bibo” as he was nicknamed was awarded the African Golden Boot in 1983. As captain of the Egypt Pharaohs, he won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1986.
Over and above his extraordinary talent, Mahmoud Al-Khatib was an extremely gentlemanly player. He played four hundred and fifty official games on the local and international scene and was never expelled from a game; not a single red card to his name. On the field and in the locker-room he had a calming effect on both his team mates and his opponents, even when their anger was justified. These qualities earned him an appointment to the International Committee for Clean Playing. He was elected as the number one Arab athlete in the twentieth century and was second only to Roger Milla for the title of Best African Footballer of the century. Though he has left the football field, he remains very close to the club he led for years, the National Al-Ahly, of which he is now Vice President.

5 - Saïd Aouita
Long-distance Sprinter

Moroccan sport entered new dimensions thanks to the performances of a man who dreamed to play football before he tore up the track record books. Revealed to the world at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, Saïd Aouita had a tendency to defy the laws of time. Within a month in 1985 he managed to break world records for 1500 and 5000 metre distances and he received the most prestigious award in athletics, the Jesse Owen Trophy. Having gathered momentum, he became the first to go under the thirteen-minute mark for the 5000-metre event and then went on to establish world records for five different distances. Between July 1985 and September 1987, he earned two Olympic gold medals and won forty-four consecutive races.
With his phenomenal capacity to recuperate and amazing sprinting ability, Aouita is the only athlete to hold world records in five different middle-distance events. He was the only runner in the 1980s to run 800 metres in under 1 min 44 s, 1500 metres in 3 min 30 s, the mile in 3 min 47 s, 3000 metres in 7 min 30 s, 5000 metres in under 13 min and the 10,000 metres in 27 min 27 s. He was poorly prepared for the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and after finishing third in the 800-metre race pulled out of the other distances. Although he was criticized, a year later he managed to break another world record in the 3000 metre event before being eclipsed when the Algerian runner Noureddine Morceli, who was ten years younger, began his awe-inspiring rise to the top.
In 1993 Saïd Aouita was appointed national technical director in Morocco but he left the position after a year. For a short period the king of the track became an elected official in Casablanca before moving to Florida. To honour him, a rapid train between Casablanca and Rabat was given the name Aouita.

6 - Kenenisa Bekele
All-distance King Of Cross Country

He is the cross-country and distance “king”, a “genius”, “a young prodigy” trumpeted track and field specialists who predicted he would soon break through to the top of the sport. At the age of 26, Kenenisa Bekele has already surpassed the records established by the best at that age, starting with his much celebrated predecessor and fellow countryman Haile Gebreselassie who saw him break two of his records. “When I saw Haile run, I thought that perhaps one day I would be like him,” said the featherweight champion (1.6 m and 54 kg), who is known for his unbelievable capacity to accelerate at the end of a race. Since 2002, he has been the undisputed king of short and long-distance cross-country races with no less than ten world titles to his credit. He is simply the cross-country runner with the greatest number of titles in history.
When Bekele hit the tartan tracks he had no problem adapting. In the 2003 World Championships in Paris, he won gold in the 10,000-metre event and bronze in the 5000 metres. The next year at the Athens Olympics, he won the 10,000 metres and finished second in the 5,000 metres. He was world champion on 10,000 metres in 2005 at Helsinki and in 2007 at Osaka, and between those two meets he won the world indoor track title in Moscow in 2006. His secret is to believe in himself. “I have never been afraid of the other runners, whatever their records may be. I have won many times by being sure of myself. And I know it is not over yet.” His future rivals at the Beijing Games have been warned, the king of the track wants enough wins to surpass the Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, who won nine Olympic titles. Kenenisa Bekele now holds the world record in five different events: 5000 metres, 10,000 metres, 2000 metres indoor, 2 miles indoor, and 5000 metres indoor. His younger brother Tariku Bekele, who recently won the 3,000 metre indoor event in Valencia, is also seen to be a future middle-distance star.

7 - Nezha Bidouane
Hurdling To Glory

In September 2007 the British daily The Times classed Nezha Bidouane among the best 100 athletes in the world. In April 2008 she was named as one of the best athletes in history and was awarded a prestigious trophy from Mr. Hamad Malboum Kalkaba, President of the Confederation of African Athletics, during the first gala evening to be held in Addis Ababa.
On a summer evening in 1984 the life of this shy but smiling young girl changed completely. Like all Moroccans she was riveted to the television as Nawal El Moutawakil performed her historic feat on the 400-metre hurdles at the Los Angeles Olympics. The next day she decided to follow in the footsteps of the first Arab, African, and Muslim woman to win Olympic gold. She dropped her gymnastics courses and devoted herself to running.
After many wins on the Mediterranean, Arab, and African circuits and three years on the international scene followed by surgery to her Achilles tendon, Nezha won her first world title in 1997 in Athens with a gold medal in the 400-metre hurdles. In 1999 she won silver and then gold in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics in Australia. The following year she sprung back at the meet in Edmonton, Canada, winning the world title once again. After this second crown Nezha Bidouane retired from elite racing to have a child. Appointed Sports Ambassador, she oversees women’s running in Casablanca. His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco personally chose the first names of her children, Yacine and Yassir.

8 - Abebe Bikila
Barefoot For Gold

When he became the first black African to win Olympic gold at the Rome Games in 1960 (the very spot where twenty-five years earlier Benito Mussolini had launched his troops to invade Ethiopia), Abebe Bikila did more than just batter the world marathon record by eight minutes held by the Czechoslovakian runner Emil Zatopek. Above all, he astonished the spectators lined up along the course or around the world on television as he ran the 42.2-kilometre race barefoot! According to the Swede Onni Niskanen who discovered Bekele, the former Ethiopian army sergeant (later promoted lieutenant) ran faster “by becoming one with nature”.
Bekele became a national hero winning accolades from the Emperor and praise from all Ethiopians but this son of shepherds seemed to be terribly plagued by bad luck. Shortly after his feat in Rome, he was implicated despite himself in a failed coup against Emperor Haile Selassie. After being pardoned, he underwent an operation for appendicitis thirty-five days before the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He nonetheless won gold again with a new world record (2 hours 12 min 11 s).
In July 1967 Bikila fractured his fibula which forced him to drop out of the marathon in 1968 at the 17-kilometre mark, thus putting an end to his career. When he broke his nape bone in a car accident he had to struggle for life for eight months. Having lost the use of his legs, he turned to wheelchair racing and archery. Bikila received an ovation from the public when he appeared in the Olympic stadium at Munich during the 1972 Games. He died at the age of 41 in 1973 from cerebral haemorrhaging. Some 65,000 people attended his funeral. A street in the city of Saint-Jean (Haute-Garonne, France) was named after him. The multi-sport stadium in Addis Ababa is also named after him. In the year 2008 the Ethiopian National Museum organized an exhibition on the life and achievements of the speedy and sublime athlete Abebe Bikila.

9 - Hassiba Boulmerka
A Symbol of Freedom
for Algerian Women

In 1991 a frail Algerian woman won a formidable, yet troubling, victory in the 1500-metre event at the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. On her knees on the track with her face buried in the Algerian flag, Hassiba Boulmerka murmured: “Algeria, Algeria!...” Then she rose and began the honour lap, radiant with joy. Her return to Algiers was triumphal where she was received as a national heroine and crossed the capital city in a convertible waving to the cheers of the people. However, the woman who was now a role model for Arab women wishing to free themselves from traditionalism was condemned by Islamic fundamentalists. Her “crime” was to have taken part in sports and especially dressed in shorts. She had to leave Algeria in order to pursue her training.
During the 1500-metre final at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the Russian runner Lyudmila Rogacheva set an excruciating pace to distance herself from all the other runners, except for Boulmerka. At 200 metres from the finish line the Algerian passed her rival and won Olympic gold. In August 1995 she won her second world championship in the same event at Göteborg in Sweden.
Hassiba Boulmerka was among the first African women to be elected to the Athletes’ Commission of the International Olympic Committee. Her determination and her achievements convinced many Algerian women that they too could take up athletics unfettered by tradition.

10 - Kalusha Bwalya
The Many-miracled
Football Player

On the night of April 27, 1993 the plane carrying Zambia’s national team to an official match landed at the Libreville airport in Gabon to refuel. The plane exploded a few minutes after taking off and Zambia lost most of its top football players. The selection would rebuild around Kalusha Bwalya who had miraculously been spared. Since he was coming from Europe, he was waiting for the plane at the next stopover.
As early as 1970 at the tender age of seven, Kalusha was already one of his generation’s gifted athletes. The Mufurila Wanderers, the Zambian capital’s leading club, spotted his talent early on. Kalusha Bwalya soon became one of the country’s best players and was chosen to be on the national team in 1982. In 1984 he won the double title as top scorer and best player in the championship. Two years later he joined Bruges FC in Belgium after having played in the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt and being revealed as an upcoming star.
In 1988 Tunisia, Zambia, and Nigeria represented Africa at the Olympic Games in Seoul. Kalusha dazzled the crowd with his ingenious playing and was the top scorer with six goals. It was the first time an African player had achieved such a performance. That same year Kalusha won the African Golden Boot award. As captain of the Zambian national team, he lost a heroic final match to the Nigeria Super Eagles in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. At the end of the year he signed with the America of Mexico City with whom he finished his career in 1998. Kalusha Bwalya then began a career coaching football and took over leadership of the Zambian national selection.

11 - Hestrie Cloete
Reaching the Sky,
2.06m Above Ground

The story of the athletic career of the South African high jumper Hestrie Cloete, née Storbeck in 1978, tells like that of a high jump itself. It began as momentum was built in high jump, long jump, and middle-distance events in
Johannesburg. Then came the rise that was marked by her appearance in the 1998 World Cup, where she came second, and her silver medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, where she was beaten only by Yelena Yelesina, based on the number of trials. The next step was flight to the summit with two consecutive world championship titles, the first at the Edmonton Worlds in 2001 and the second in Paris in 2003.
At the Paris meet Hestrie shook her opponents psychologically by placing the bar above the two-metre mark for the first jump. She would clear the bar at 2.06 metres. That year, the South African butterfly earned the distinction as African Athlete of the Year along with the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj. The drop in her career began in 2004 at the Athens Olympics when she failed to clear 2.04 metres, leaving the gold medal to the Russian jumper Yelena Slesarenko. Hestrie Cloete left the field after having totally dominated her rivals in the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and 2002, the African Championships in 1998, 2002, and 2004, and the African Games in 1995 and 1999. These achievements are surely a source of pride for her daughter and for Jurie Els whom she married in September 2005.

12 - Jean-Jacques Conceição
Basketball Star Of Angola

The Angolan basketball star Jean-Jacques Conseição holds a double record that will be difficult to beat in Africa. He played for twenty-three years for the national team and won the African championship seven times. The precocious young player earned international recognition by being selected for the national team at the age of seventeen. He was also the first Angolan to be authorized to launch a professional career by the communist regime in Luanda that closely oversaw sports in the first years following the country’s independence. Other than his country’s first participation in the African championships in 1980 in Morocco, Jean-Jacques played in all the other African series, playing with all the generations of international players from Angola.
The different coaches who have headed the Angolan team for the past twenty years could never find a substitute for this fighting guard known for his extraordinary rebounds. Jean-Jacques Conseição learned his game and acquired experience in Europe where he toured with several teams. In 1990, at the age of twenty-six, he literally exploded in the Portuguese championships playing for the club Benefica. Six years later his reputation opened doors to the Cercle Saint-Pierre in Limoges, France, where he played from 1996 to 1999. After a season in Malaga, Spain, and a return to Portugal, he ended his career in 2003. Today he is Vice President of the Angolan Basketball Federation and he is devoted to training young players.

13 - Meseret Defar
A Heart Of Gold

Young Meseret Defar has a heart of gold both literally and figuratively. Her powerful heart made her queen of the 5000 metres. She holds the world record (14 min 16.63 s in Oslo in 2007), won gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and at the Osaka World Championships in 2007. Born on November 19, 1983 Meseret Defar was named Female Athlete of the Year in 2007 by the IAAF, along with the American Tyson Gay who was Male Athlete of the Year. In addition to the 3000-metre event that she regularly wins (gold medal at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, and also indoor gold in 2004, 2006, and 2008), Meseret has now dominated the 5000-metre race for the past four years.
Meseret Defar puts her powerful heart to work at track meets but also in other areas. As with many of her fellow Ethiopian track stars, she is very devoted to helping less fortunate people in her country. In 2007, she dedicated her IAAF title to “women in her country who in order to survive head to work with empty stomachs.” She actively supports the Abebe Bikila Project Association that is devoted to training young runners in need. Together with her husband, Meseret Defar adopted two children from Addis Ababa, including one who quite ironically suffers from heart disease. Fortunately, his adoptive mother’s heart is surely strong enough for two.

14 - Béa Diallo
The Boxing Politician

Béa Diallo, the son of a Guinean diplomat, was born in the Liberian capital of Monrovia in 1971 and went on to become a champion boxer under the flag of Belgium. After winning several Belgian and intercontinental titles as a middle-weight fighter, Béa Diallo conquered the IBO world championship belt as a super-welter weight. He retired as an athlete in May 2007 at a jubilee in Liège, with a much enviable record.
Béa Diallo is just as determined in life as he was in the boxing ring. He earned a degree from the prestigious school of communications and marketing from the Université Libre de Belgique (ULB). Since he is both discreet and serious, his budding political career is likely to mirror his exceptional boxing career. In 2005 he was handily elected to represent Brussels under the Belgian Socialist Party colours. He was also elected deputy of the Communauté française de Belgique. He is both politically and socially committed and created the charity association known as My Choice. The mission of My Choice is to work with schools to counter violence through sports. Béa Diallo constantly struggles to eliminate violence against women and to foster the social integration of the handicapped. “I have always wanted to be a Zorro for those who suffer scorn and rejection,” says Diallo. This Foulani prince has never forgotten his roots. Through the Diallo Foundation, he participates in development projects in his native Guinea.

15 - Tirunesh Dibaba
A Champion Like Her Sisters

She was a young teenager with a future when she arrived in Addis Ababa in 1999. Tirunesh Dibaba was only fourteen years old. As the legend goes, she took up athletics because she arrived in the capital city too late to register for school. Her future seemed to be cut out for her considering the genetic heritage she shared with her older sister Ejigayehu Dibaba who won the silver medal on the 10,000 metres at the Athens Olympics. Moreover, her cousin Derartu Tulu charmed the world at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 when she became the first African woman to win gold in the 10,000-metre event.
It was thus only natural for Tirunesh to join and strengthen the ranks of the incredible Ethiopian and Kenyan armada. She was soon unassumingly rubbing shoulders with the best in the world. At the 2001 World Championships she finished fifth in the 5000 metres, but won gold at the next two Worlds in 2003 and 2005. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, she won the bronze behind Meseret Defar and Isabelle Ochichi. Her victories in the short cross-country World Championships in 2004 and 2005 and in the long cross-country races in 2005 and 2006 are clear signs of a great future. She is the youngest person in history to top these disciplines. With her performances in the short and long cross-country events (5000 and 10,000 metres respectively), she has made history like her young compatriot Kenenisa Bekele. She admits that her rage to win is inspired by her country’s colours that she is extremely proud to bear. Tirunesh is young and has an extremely promising future ahead that might include Olympic gold in Beijing this year.

16 - Didier Drogba
He Gives Elephants Wings

C’était pas gagné. The title of Didier Drogba’s biography published last May in French summarizes perfectly the path traced by this Abidjan-born footballer who earned remarkable notoriety relatively late. Didier Yves Drogba Tébily joined his football-playing uncle Michel Goba in Brest, France, at the age of five. He signed his first professional contract when he was 21 and at the age of 24 he scored 24 goals in fifty games for the Guingamp club. The Olympique de Marseille spotted him, hired him, and literally banked on him. The football-smart public were dazzled by his sharp decisive passes and above all by the 32 goals scored in 53 games, including a UEFA Cup final. League 1’s best scorer in 2003-2004 then somewhat unwillingly joined the Chelsea Club in England thanks to a solid gold contract worth 33 million Euros bankrolled by billionaire Roman Abramovitch.
In London Drogba was twice champion of England in 2005 and 2006. That year, this phenomenal Ivorian was top scorer in the Premier League with 31 goals, a new record. Drogba was elected African Golden Talent and Golden Boot in 2006 and was a key element to the Ivory Coats Elephants’ qualification for that country’s first participation in the World Cup. In 2006 in Germany they were eliminated in the first round but not without leaving a praiseworthy impression. Drogba recently came close to a Champions’ League trophy with Chelsea, who was defeated only after a second shoot-out. On that point he is right again, the game wasn’t won.

17 - Hicham El Guerrouj
To the Very Last Breath

The image never stopped recurring. The small man bearing the Moroccan green colours battling with the pack of black middle-distance runners, including Paul Tergat and other Kenyans and Ethiopians, and would falter before the finish line. Hicham El Guerrouj could not seem to shake the curse that dogged him. In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, though he was among the favourites, his race was destroyed by a bad fall and he finished last. King Hassan II telephoned him immediately to console him: “For us, you are still a champion.” A real champion. He won four world championship titles in the 1500 metres between 1997 and 2003. On July 14, 1998, in Rome, he broke the world record held by the Algerian Nourredine Morceli. That record time of 3 min 26 s 00 still holds.
Only gold seemed to escape him. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, he was the favourite for the 1500-metre race, but he cracked in the last stretch and was beaten across the finish line by the Kenyan Noah Ngeny. Four years later in Athens, El Guerrouj was twenty-nine years old and ready to wrap up his career. He managed to break the curse magnificently with gold in both the 1500 and 5000-metre events. This time it was the son who had become King of Morocco, Mohammed VI who called Hicham while he was still on the track to congratulate him for his feat. The King decorated El Guerrouj with the prestigious “Cordon de Commandeur” in September 2004 and gave him land and properties. It was a fine epilogue to a story marked by the perseverance of a child from Berkane, a village perched in the Beni Snassen mountains in northeastern Morocco, who became the cherished son of an entire country.

18 - Nawal El Moutawakel
When Gold Breaks Taboos

In Morocco where taboos can be tenacious, Nawal El Moutawakel boldly broke them down. She was the first athlete from the Sherifian kingdom to wear shorts and cleats in public and also to maintain the respect of the public. Her career started in 1978 and she leapt to the top within a year as champion of Africa in the 400-metre hurdles. The frail-looking Nawal was then given a hero’s welcome at the Casablanca Airport and all the way to her home in a residential district of the city. She won gold at the Mediterranean Games in 1983 before going down in history with Olympic gold in 1984 at Los Angeles. She was the first Moroccan, Arab, African, and Muslim woman to win such honours. Her success was the trigger for other African women who have followed her to the top over the past two decades both at the Olympics and at the World Championships.
After breaking the ice, Nawal ended her athletic career and devoted herself to other tasks in and around sports. She was involved in banking, did consulting work for media, received a scholarship for studies in the USA, and then she reappeared on the Board of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations). She has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1998 and chaired the commission responsible for choosing the city to hold the Olympics in 2012 (London). Nawal has also been involved in politics, having twice been a member of the government of Morocco. In 2000 she created the Sports and Development association to “help young athletes socially in need, and particularly girls.”

19 - Sarah Etongue
Queen Of The Mountain

Thirty-six kilometres rising 1300 metres vertically with radical temperature changes between start and finish is how one describes the Ascension of Mount Cameroon, now known as the Race of Hope. The International Military Sports Council calls it one of the world’s toughest athletics challenges. The Official Queen of the event in which humans challenge the “Chariot of the Gods”, as Mount Cameroon is called, is a small farming woman from the Mokunda neighbourhood of Buea, in Cameroon’s Southwest province, Sarah Liengu Etongue. She is the only woman to have mastered the mountain seven times between 1996 and 2005 while setting an all-time record for women at 5 hours 21 min 42 s.
At first, the Race of Hope was dominated by male runners including Reverend Walter Stifter, Mike Short, or the late Timothy Leku Lekunze, but it has now found the best ambassador possible in this woman who is raising her seven children by herself. The television network France 2 did a documentary film on her in 1998. This year at the age of 41, Sarah Etongue announced that she was retiring by that she would “run in the veterans’ category”. Her announcement prompted a local insurance company to offer her a job and the government of Cameroon to refurbish the monument built in her honour in Buea. The Queen of the Mountain was the first Cameroonian woman athlete to have a monument in her name. Until then only footballers Roger Milla and Thomas N’Kono had received such an honour. The next generation is rising in her own home. Last February Sarah’s son placed first in the junior category for the Race of Hope.

20 - Samuel Eto’o Fils
A Lion King Who Gobbled
Up Records

Rewriting football history after Roger Milla is a mind-boggling challenge, especially in Cameroon where new hopefuls are constantly appearing. Samuel Eto’o Fils has nonetheless already surpassed his illustrious forerunner on at least one count, the number of African Golden Boots. He has received three compared to two for Milla, and is thus the youngest African player (24 in 2005) to be a triple winner. George Weah and Abedi Ayew Pelé won the triple honour at the age of 29. That year at the Africa Cup of Nations organized by Ghana, the Ivorian Laurent Pokou who was the best scorer until then with fourteen goals was pushed out of the record books by the young Cameroonian who scored a total of sixteen goals. This product of the Kadji Sports Academy really upset football stats when he played for professional clubs. Real Madrid used him little when he arrived at the age of 15, but he was leant to RCD Majorque and won the King’s Cup scoring sixty-four goals in four seasons. The President of Barcelona FC Joan Laporta then jumped to draft him in 2004. Eto’o lived up to his reputation by scoring twenty-five goals and winning the championship and the Super Cup of Spain. In 2006 he was the Liga’s best scorer with twenty-six goals, best front striker in the Champions’ League, and top player in the final against Arsenal. This was a first for an African. Despite two injuries, the “best number 9 in Barça’s history” was back in good enough shape to lead Cameroon into the final of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
The champion also stands out for his humanitarian work (donation of ambulances to the Cameroon SAMU) and for the training of young footballers through the Samuel Eto’o Fils Foundation. His many admirers are now looking forward to seeing him shine in the World Cup where he already appeared as one of the youngest players. That was in France in 1998 when he was only 17 years old.

21 - Eusebio Ferreira
The Adventure Of
The Mozambican Pelé

Would “King Pelé’s alter ego” have had such a brilliant career if his native Mozambique had prevented him from going to Portugal? Not likely. From the moment he began to play for the Sporting de Lourenço Marques (now the capital Maputo), the young Ferreira Da Silva Eusebio, who was a natural scorer and exceptional striker, developed a reputation that echoed in the barbershops of Lisbon where Bela Guttmann who coached the Benfica club saw a chance to make history. The eighteen-year-old was signed up in 1960 following a pitched battle with the Sporting’s number one rival. The investment paid off. Wearing Benfica colours, Eusebio won the championship of Portugal eleven times and was top scorer between 1964 and 1973, with five Portugal Cups and two European Golden Shoes (1968 with 42 goals and in 1973 with 40 goals). In 1962 his team won the Champions’ Cup against the unbeaten armada from Real Madrid led by the Hungarian star Ferenc Puskás. In the final the Madrilans were beaten 5 to 3 and Eusebio scored twice. In all he played 715 games with Benfica and scored 727 goals.
When Eusebio won the European Golden Shoe in 1965, he was compared to the Brazilian Pelé. The two football heroes faced off in the World Cup in 1966 in England. Portugal dominated the double world champions by a score of 3 to 1. Pelé left the field with an injury, Eusebio scored twice and led his adopted country to an historic third place in the World Cup, and took home the top scorer title with a total of nine goals. Eusebio remains the top scorer of the Portuguese selection with forty-one goals in sixty-four selections. He completed his career in North America in 1978 at the age of thirty-six. He was classed ninth in a vote held by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) to determine the twentieth century’s top player.

22 - Frankie Fredericks
Silver Medals Worth Gold

Thanks to Frankie Fredericks, Namibia, last African country to win its independence in 1991, collected its first and only Olympic Gold medals. The people of Namibia were so proud of Frank or Frankie Fredericks that they celebrated each time he reached the podium as though it were for gold. He won two silver medals in the 100-metre and 200-metre events at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and the kid from the Windhoek townships then beat the American Michael Johnson who was known as the world’s fastest on the 200 metres (19:30). At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, however, Fredericks was second to Donovan Bailey in the 100 metres, and second to Michael Johnson in the 200 metre event. Some saw Frankie as the eternal runner up, others as the nice guy with a curse, but nonetheless the great Namibian runner specialized in silver on the 200-metre race, winning it at the World Championships in 1991, 1995, and 1997.
World Champion at Stuttgart in 1993, African record holder for 100 metres in 9:86 and 200 metres 19:68, Frankie Fredericks is cited as one of the ten best “performers” of all time in the glamour sprint event having broken the ten second mark twenty-seven times. Son of a uranium miner, Frankie was taken out of a computer career to become a refined and graceful athlete who proudly bore the colours of his country until he was thirty-six. He retired on another of his many silver medals at the African Games in Abuja, Nigeria. He now devotes his time to developing young athletes throughout Africa and especially in Namibia where he has created the Frankie Fredericks Foundation.

23 - Mohammed Gammoudi
Tunisian Sports Icon

Mohammed Tlili Ben Abdallah, better known by the name Gammoudi, won Tunisia’s first Olympic gold medal on the 5000-metre run at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, beating the standing world record of 14 min 05 s. This career soldier remains the only Tunisian to have won gold. Two days earlier he won the bronze in the 10,000-metre event. This pioneer runner has several other distinctions.
He first drew international attention to himself at the Mediterranean Games in Naples in 1963 where he won the 5000 and 10,000-metre events. Chronic tendonitis forced him into the shadows at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He nonetheless won the silver medal, the first time a Tunisian won an Olympic medal. He successfully defended his title in the 5000 and 10,000-metre races at the next Mediterranean Games organized by Tunisia in 1967. This was a conclusive rehearsal for the Mexico Olympics the following year. Exhibiting his two medals proudly, Gammoudi returned home to the cheers of an entire nation and President Habib Bourguiba promoted him from sergeant to lieutenant in the army. He earned another silver medal on the 5000 metres at the next Mediterranean Games in Izmir (Turkey) in 1971. When Africa boycotted the Olympics in 1976 because of the presence of South African athletes, Mohammed Gammoudi ended his career. As the top Tunisian athlete in history, Gammoudi has taken on major responsibilities with the Tunisian Athletics Federation.

24 - Haile Gebreselassie
Twenty-Five Worlds Records

His height (under 5 ft 5 in) conceals the power of his stride. The Ethiopian Haile Gebreselassie is considered to be the best distance runner of all time. He has won two Olympic gold medals and eight gold medals at the world championships on distances from 1500 to 10,000 metres, and he holds no less than twenty-five world records including the latest one set in September 2007 at the Berlin Marathon with a time of 2 h 4 min 26 s. He was several other records in the 10-km, 20-km, 25-km events, and more. He recently qualified for the 10,000-metre race at the Beijing Olympics.
“Run for life” is what he admits having done since he was a child in the small remote village of Arssi in Ethiopia where he was born in 1973. He would run twenty kilometres a day just to go to school, then ran to get water far from home and hoed the fields. Gebreselassie settled in Addis Ababa to go to school but he was already thinking about running. He began his professional career in 1988 even though he was still in high school. By 1993 he was world champion in the 10,000-metre event. His talent was fully recognized in 1996 when he won gold in the same distance at the Atlanta Olympics. His feat became the subject of the film Endurance made by the British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead in which the champion played his own role. He kept his medal four years later at the Sydney games.
Haile Gebreselassie is a modest and very altruistic hero. With his wife Alem, he conducts activities in the areas of real estate, schooling, cinema, computer and foreign-language training, sports facilities and more. They proudly train young people and provide work for some five hundred people. “Gebre” recently revealed that when his running career ends he intends to get involved in politics to improve the lot of his fellow Ethiopians. “Education is the key,” he says. “Ethiopia needs neither weapons nor champions, but rather bread and education. If people are educated, we will not have all the problems that we now have.”

25 - Bryan Habana
Record Man On Tries
In The Rugby World Cup

Reaching the top was not a simple task for this native of Benoni in South Africa who had to break into a sport that until recently was the “white man’s domain” in the country of Nelson Mandela. Since October 20, 2007 and victory over England in the World Coup Rugby final, the flying winger Bryan Gary Habana (5 ft 9 in, 200 lb) shares the record for tries in the World competition with the New Zealander Jona Lomu who says that “the sky’s the limit” for the young rugby player. Habana began with the Springboks in November 2004 against the English team. He had a brilliant season in 2005, becoming the new South African rugby star and scoring many man-to-man tries thanks to his tremendous speed and sense of anticipation that make him one of the most formidable and speediest wingers in the world.
The year 2007 was historical for the rugby man as the South African Bulls won the Super 14 with a victorious try at the eighty-second minute. By October 20, 2007 Bryan Habana had played thirty-five games with the Springboks and had already chalked up thirty tries. With a rate of 0.85 tries per match, he was Springbok’s top performer. The International Rugby Board (IRB) named in the world’s top player in the year 2007. The young star player, who plans to marry Janine Viljoen whose family originated from France, appears to be out to rewrite the world rugby record book. He is only twenty-five years old.

26 - Hossam Hassan
Grey Eminence
Of Egyptian Football

Considered to be one of the top players in Egyptian football history with a record number of 170 selections to the national team and seventy-six goals, Hossam Hassan has kicked footballs about ever since he was a child playing with a group of friends in the green prairies and dunes near Cairo. His dribbling talent caught the eye of coaches with the top local clubs and he played consecutively for the Al Ahly (twice) and Zamalek clubs of Cairo, the Al Masry club of Port Said, and finally for Al Ittihad of Alexandria. With these different teams he was champion of Egypt fourteen times and won five national cups. On the international scene he enjoyed victory at two African Champions’ Leagues, two Africa Clubs Cups, one African Super Cup, two Arab Champions’ Cups, two Arab Cup of Cups, one Arab Super Cup…
As charismatic captain of the Pharaohs, at the age of forty-two, Hossam is the most celebrated Egyptian footballer. He won the Africa Cup of Nations three times (1986, 1998, and 2006). He is a leader on the field and in the locker-room and often acts as negotiator with the managers. He managed to motivate his team-mates in the years 2000 and proposed solutions to the financial crisis facing the Egyptian Football Federation.
Unlike many Egyptian stars, Hossam Hassan flirted with the foreign teams in Greece, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. Following the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, during which he was the top scorer, he retired from the national team during an emotional ceremony.

27 - Salif Keïta
An Eagle On The Field
Called Domingo

Despite the confusion arising because he and a famous Malian musician bear the same name, Salif Keïta won the respect of all Malians because of his long football career and a successful post-football career. He was the youngest international player in the history of the Aigles of Mali – he was only sixteen when he made the team for the 1963 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana – was the country champion with the Real of Bamako three times. He then headed to Saint-Étienne, breaking new ground for African footballers who dreamt of success in Europe. With the Stéphanois, “Domingo” as he came to be known won the championship three times (1968, 1969, 1970), two France Cups (1968, 1970), and scored 125 goals in five seasons.
After his first season with Saint-Étienne, he won the European Silver Boot award for second top score and then won the African Golden Boot in 1970. He was less lucky however with the national selection. At the 1972 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon an injury prevented him from playing in the final game in which Congo Brazzaville beat Mali by a score of 3 to 2. That year he signed up with the Olympique de Marseille who tried to convince him to become a French citizen. He then went to play for Valencia followed by Lisbon, winning the Portugal Cup in 1978 with the Sporting, before ending his career in the United States where he also earned a management degree. In 1994 the Guinean filmmaker Cheikh Doukouré made a film about him entitled Ballon d’or (Golden Ball). That same year the former goalkeeper’s nightmare created the Salif Keïta Youth Football Training Centre (CSK) that would produce, among others, his nephew Seydou Keïta, who is a member of the Barcelona FC in Spain and the captain of Mali’s national team. In June 2005 Salif Keïta was elected President of the Malian Football Federation for a four-year mandate.

28 - Kipchoge Keino
From The Rift Valley To The Track

In the 1960s Keino Kipchoge was one of the first champions of the Rift Valley in Kenya, that high plateau region that has produced so many distant runners who, in the later decades, would dominate the world of athletics. Kipchoge Keino was born in 1940 in Kipsamo and was an orphan at a young age. He went to school like many other young people and was hired as a policeman when he finished school. Keino only began his sports career at the Commonwealth Games in 1962 and his first Olympic appearance at the Tokyo games in 1962 proved to be a warm-up for him. A year later he broke away from the pack setting new world records in the 3000-metre race in Sweden and in the 5000-metres in the United States (13 min 24:02 s). At the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 intestinal pain forced him out of the 10,000-metre race. He sprung back a few days later, running despite medical advice to the contrary and won silver in the 5000-metre event and gold in the 1500-metre race. It was his first gold medal. He won is second gold in the 3000-metre steeplechase at the Munich Olympics in 1972, as well as silver in the 1500 metres. Keino retired in 1973. This humble champion earned recognition both on and off the race track because he devoted himself to the promotion of athletics in Kenya and to the development of future champions. He is President of the Kenyan National Olympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee. Keino Kipchoge lives on a farm in western Kenya where he heads a charity organization for orphans.

29 - Wilson Kipketer
800 Metres And A Smile

He was king and undisputed master of the half mile (800 metres). However, despite his immense talent which made him appear invincible combined with a permanent smile, this Kenyan runner experienced several cases of bad luck in his career. Wilson Kipketer was born in the Rift Valley, where so many champions grew up, and was discovered along with many other athletes by the famous coach, talent scout, and priest from Ireland, Colm O’Connel, who had lived in the Kenyan plateaux for thirty years.
Wilson was world champion in 1995 and should have been crowned Olympic champion the following year at the Atlanta Games. However, he had just obtained Danish citizenship and was prevented from taking part in the Olympics because of a passport problem. In 1997 he was in better shape than ever and ready to win and he set a world record that still stands (1 min 42 s). The following year when he was coming back from Kenya he experienced a severe case of malaria that almost killed him. It would take him two years to get back to his former shape. During this period almost everybody abandoned him and he never really returned to the level he had reached in 1997. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000 he was beaten by the young German runner Nils Schumann who had idolized Wilson. By the time the Athens Games were held in 2004, it was too late and he had to settle with the bronze medal. Despite these successive hardships, Wilson Kipketer always maintained a smile and his good sport outlook. He has left the image of a very gifted, courageous, and good-natured athlete.

30 - Rabah Madjer
A Heel Goes Down In History

With his dazzling faints and ball handling, the elegant Algerian footballer Rabah Madjer is one of the rare players, along with the Czech Antonin Panenka (inventor of the “dead leaf” penalty kick to the middle of the goal), to have given his name to a technical move. On May 27, 1987 in the European Champions’ Cup final pitting his club the Porto FC against Bayern Munich, Rabah Madjer became a legend when he heeled the ball into the net after it was centred from the right side of the field. This became the “madjerade”. With that daring and yet to be seen kick, Madjer became the “king of the heel”. Porto won its first League of Champions title, going on to win the European Super Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup. Madjer was also named African Golden Boot in 1987.
Born on February 15, 1958 in Hussein Dey, Madjer stood out very early on the local teams. However, he had to comply with Algerian laws of the day that prevented players under twenty-eight from leaving the country. He was selected for the national team in 1982 and played in the World Cup in Spain, including the surprising upset of Germany by a score of 2 to 1 in which he scored the Fennecs’ first goal. In 1990 he won the Africa Cup of Nations along with Djamel Menad and Chérif Oudjani. He was selected eighty-seven times to the Algerian national team and scored thirty-one goals. He became national team coach in 1993 and then left the team after a year before leading it again in 1999. In the hall of the Porto FC head office there is a huge three-metre poster of Rabah doing his celebrated heel kick against Bayern of Munich. To honour that historical move, the United Arab Emirate newspaper El Ittihad designated him the top Arab football player of the twentieth century based on votes submitted by internetters.

31 - Amy Mbacké-Thiam
Is Senegal Snubbing
Its Only World Champion ?

Much against her will Amy Mbacke Thiam has been in the media for the past year. Her conflict is with Senegal’s Athletics Federation who suspended her in 2007 for not participating in the African Games in Algiers. The ire of the federation’s leaders was even greater because Amy had spoken out loudly on air against the sanction. “They are not qualified to direct top level sports, be it the Federation President Momar Mbaye or the Technical Director. With them we might wait until the year 3000 before winning anything.” With the mediation of people of good will like Youssou N’Dour, the crisis was resolved and the sanction lifted. Amy Mbacké-Thiam is now concentrated on the challenge of her life, winning Olympic Gold in Beijing. This might be her last chance as she is now in her thirty-second year.
She would very much like to repeat her exploit at the 2001 World Athletics Championships in Edmonton (Canada). She had just come out of the International Athletics Centre in Dakar and won the 400-metre race in 49.86 s thereby becoming the first Senegalese world champion, remains so to this day.
Since then Amy has had a hard time reaching the same level, partly because of a series of injuries. Despite her natural talent, her mastery of the track, her ability to adapt and to pass others, she had to settle with the bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships in Paris Saint-Denis. Ana Guevara won gold. In 2005 due to health problems she was fourth in Helsinki. It is now up to her in coming weeks to prove her ability to spring back. She knows that the people of Senegal and many others will have their eyes glued to her.

32 - Françoise Mbango Etonè
A Long Jump For Africa

Cameroonians are serous sports fans and especially football fans but since 2004 they have a new passion, the triple jump. It is all Françoise Mbango Etonè’s “fault” because on August 23, 2004 she won the women’s triple jump gold medal. Triple jump immediately became a favourite discipline for people in Cameroon. Françoise had already shown clear signs that she had the ambition and the ability to work hard and win, even though she had to do it virtually without support from the Cameroon sports movement that is so entirely devoted to football. Her fellow Cameroonians are therefore not to be blamed for failing to see this powerful young women with fire in her eyes who was upsetting track meets all over. Indeed, she shone particularly in Cameroon as a high jumper before she opted for the triple jump.
She was already a mature athlete when she appeared at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and qualified the hard way for the final. She finished tenth but it was clear that victory was within reach. In 2001 she won the silver medal at the Edmonton World Championships, just behind the unbeatable Russian Tatyana Lebedeva. She maintained the momentum in 2002 winning the silver medal again at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. When she walked away with gold after leaping more than 15 metres in the triple jump, she was formally crowned. But she showed that she can keep the crown when she won the gold medal last April at the Africa Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa. Thus as the Beijing Olympics approach, she has proved that her career still has a future.

33 - Rachid Mekhloufi
Football As A Weapon

Rachid Mekhloufi was a pioneer as an African football expatriate in France. He lived by and for football. At the age of eighteen when his football talent was widely recognized in his native Algeria, he went to France in 1954 so as to live out his passion for the game. Recruitment trials lasted only thirty minutes since the coach of Saint-Étienne Jean Snella was immediately electrified by his talent and signed him on. That was a turning point for the team who began to collect trophies. Rachid Mekhloufi was also one of the first Africans to play for the French national team for which he was selected eleven times in 1956 and 1957.
Although he was well integrated in France, he never forgot about his roots in Algeria and made that clear in 1958 when he deserted the French team just before the World Cup. He did so in solidarity with his fellow Algerians fighting for independence and he joined the team of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) that was fighting against French colonialists. Mekhloufi played in a few highly symbolic gala matches after which his career rebounded with the Servette of Geneva in 1960, the Swiss champions in 1962. He then received an enthusiastic welcome on his return to Saint-Étienne in 1962, the year Algeria became independent. He stayed with the team until 1968, scoring 106 goals and winning four championship titles and on France Cup. He ended his career in France as player-coach at Bastia. On his return to Algeria he became coach of the Algerian National Team.

34 - Roger Milla
The “Old Lion” Started Dancing

The best African football player in the twentieth century according to the French daily L’Équipe is being overwhelmed by all the distinctions awarded to him. The most recent are Best Cameroonian Player in the twentieth century, best African player in the past fifty years according to the Confederation of African Football. Twice named African Golden Boot (1976 and 1990), appointed Chevalier in France’s Legion of Honour, Milla likes to recall that he is the oldest goal scorer in a World Cup final phase game, scoring at the age of 42 years and 39 days in 1994 in the United States. For Albert Roger Mooh Miller, alias Milla, who joined the Indomitable Lions group in 1974, longevity is a mark of genius. The former member of the Éclair et Leopard of Douala began sparkling with the clubs in Cameroon, winning the first Africa Winners’ Cup in 1975 with the Tonnerre of Yaoundé before he began to specialize in bringing teams in the D2 division a notch higher (Saint-Étienne, Valenciennes, Saint Pierroise de la Réunion).
As both a smart dribbler and dangerous striker Roger Milla was involved in the glory-bound Cameroon football campaigns of the 1980s. Twice winner of the Africa Cup of Nations (1984, 1988), he led Cameroon to its first participation in the World Cup in Spain in 1982, a streak unblemished by defeat. In 1990 he dazzled the World Cup in Italy when he did a few Makossa steps on the corner position to celebrate each of the five goals that took Cameroon to the quarter finals, a first for an African team. After trying his luck with limited success in the music world, the former star of the football field became involved in humanitarian work through his foundation Coeur d’Afrique that fights discrimination in health, education, and sports.

35 - Noureddine Morceli
The Child Who Ran Fifteen
Kilometres A Day

In his family infants learn to be world running champions. Noureddine Morceli was seven when he was overwhelmed by the urge to run the 1500 metres like his older brother Abderahmane, former Algerian champion. In his early training on the Oran area beaches he would regularly run fifteen kilometres a day just to warm up. He made such rapid progress that in 1988 at the age of eighteen, he got his first rewards for being so tenacious. Riverside College in California recruited him. That same year he won the silver medal in the 1500-metre event at the World Junior Championships.
The best was yet to come. In March 1991 he became world indoor champion on 1500 metres. After problems with his sciatic nerve slowed him down, he relied on his legendary endurance to take up the challenge of new tracks. Results came quickly. In 1992 he set his first world record and since then nothing in the 1500-metre races fazes him. Noureddine took on the best in the world and won four world championships between 1991 and 1995 before winning gold at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. His career was so impressive that in 1993 he was elected “world athlete of the year” by the French daily L’Équipe. Noureddine Morceli retired from international competition in 2000, satisfied to know that he had shattered world records five times in the 1000, 1500, 2000, and 3000-metre events.

36 - Maria Mutola
Jackpot On The Track

All children of Mozambique should have a Craveirinha in their lives, somebody who believes in their talent and who is ready to help them,” declared Maria de Lurdes Mutola. She wanted to be a football star but that dream was broken early because she was a woman. Thanks to the most famous Mozambican poet José Craveirinha, also an impassioned athletics fan, Mutola reached the summit in her sport. He gave her a pair of running shoes and introduced her to his son Stelio, an athletics coach. His flair paid off. With a few months of training, the young woman won a silver medal in the 800-metre race in the African Athletics Championships in 1988 and represented Mozambique at the Seoul Olympic Games that year.
Din the 90s Maria Mutola rose to become a world athletics star. Her greatest victory came at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when she won Mozambique’s first Olympic gold medal. In 2003 she won the highest athletics prize in the world, a jackpot of one million dollars rewarded for her six consecutive victories in the Golden League championships of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). That same year, Maria was appointed Youth Emissary of the United Nations Development Program (UNPD). In her country she is known as “Maputo Express”. She has promised to hang up her running shoes after the Beijing games this summer at the age of thirty-six. A somewhat discreet national hero, Maria Mutola nonetheless established a foundation bearing her name that has helped many young people take part in international meets since its inception in 2001.

37 - Pierre Ndaye Mulamba
Record Holder For Goals
In An Africa Cup Of Nations

In the final game of the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations in Cairo, Egypt, Pierre Ndaye Mulamba, whose talent was already widely recognized in his home country of Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), stunned his people once again. Breaking through the Zambian defence four times, he scored four goals and gave his team the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations trophy. In all he scored nine goals during the series, setting a record for the number of goals scored by one player in the final phase of the Africa Cup. He was only twenty-six and his record still stands.
Nicknamed the “goalkeeper’s hangman”, he could explode like none other and combined his speed and feints to outsmart his opponents. He was also known as “Mutumbula” (meaning assassin in Lulua) because of his thundering shots, and “Volvo” because of his speedy execution. When he headed into the opposing zone with the ball at his foot, the defenders would be desperate and the goalkeepers, resigned. Besides starring with the Léopards of Zaïre, he put his skills and his brains to work for local teams including the Tshinkunku FC of Kananga and above all the Vita Club Sports Association of Kinshasa that he led to several national titles and to the African Cup of Champions Clubs in 1973. In recognition of his place in the history of football, on April 12, 2005 he received the FIFA “Centennial Order of Merit” awarded by the FIFA from Joseph Sepp Blatter himself, who travelled to Kinshasa for the ceremony. Pierre “Mutumbula” Ndaye Mulamba had to travel for the ceremony too as he has living in relative anonymity in Cape Town, South Africa, since 1996.

38 - Catherine Ndereba
Never-ending Marathons

The Kenyan Catherine Ndereba sprung onto the high-level competition scene just as she runs, with force. In 1996 at the age of twenty-four, just one year after beginning an international career, Catherine was designated “Road Runner of the Year” by Runner’s World magazine and “Road Racer of the Year” by Running Times. That same year she classed second in the United States, and this seemed only to whet her appetite for the number one position. As of 1998, after a year off to give birth to her daughter Jane, Catherine began to collect medals, winning bronze in the individual event and gold in the team event at the Athletics Championships in Palermo, Italy. She recorded very impressive times that year in different distances including the 5 km (15 min 09 s), 12 km (38 min 37 s), 15 km (48 min 52 s). Having gathered momentum, she tried running the marathon which now holds no secrets from her. Her technique and endurance are greatly appreciated by the specialized magazines who hold her in awe.
In 2000 and 2001 Ndereba dominated the Boston and Chicago marathons with decisive victories, and a world women’s record of 2 h 18 min 47 s. It was thus only logical for her to win the gold medal in the World Championships in 2003. From then on, she was present at all the world athletic meets setting the pace for her rivals. In 2007 the fastest African woman in the world won gold again in the marathon in the Osaka World Championships. Catherine Ndereba’s only source of frustration is Olympic gold. In 2004 she had to settle with silver. With Beijing at her doorstep, is she planning for revenge?

39 - Thomas N’kono
A Spider In Goal

The goalkeeper of Italy’s national team, Gianluigi Buffon, considered to be among the world’s best, had this compliment for Thomas N’Kono: “When I saw Thomas N’Kono play, I wanted to be a goalkeeper.” He even named his son Thomas after the Cameroon star. “Tommy”, as his friends call him, is the best known and most titled Cameroonian goalkeeper in history. With him the legendary Canon of Yaoundé that he joined at the age of eighteen won four African Cups of Champions Clubs. Nicknamed the “Black Spider” Thomas N’Kono was able to weave a net in front of the goal of the national team, the Indomitable Lions: three times participant in the World Cup (1982, 1990, 1994), a victory and a final participation in the Africa Cup of Nations (1984 and 1986). He was crowned “Best Player in Cameroon” four times and was awarded the African Golden Boot twice, in 1979 and 1982.
After the Lions’ remarkable World Cup performance in Spain in 1982, N’Kono was recruited that same year by the Espanyol of Barcelona, the second club in the Catalan capital city. It was a major event because Tommy became the first African goalkeeper in Europe. He held that position for ten years and was never replaced. In 1986 he was named best player in the Championship of Spain. After going to Bolivia for a short while N’Kono retired as a player but became a goalkeeping coach with none other than the Espanyol of Barcelona. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have called on him twice already but he remains based in Barcelona. Thomas N’Kono discovered a certain Idriss Carlos Kameni who is reputed to be his successor.

40 - Mary Onyali-Omagbemi
The Nigerian Sprint Queen

Before being a sprinter, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi was an ardent sports enthusiast, and that is probably what explains her performances. She liked sports from the moment she began school and took part in all of them, both individual and team events. In athletics she worked on jumping disciplines (high jump and long jump) as well as running including both endurance and sprint events. Her teachers saw that she had the potential to be a champion. In high school she was the one asked to coordinate sports activities.
In 1983 following excellent results in the 100 and 200 metre races, she was sent to Ghana to represent her country in a regional meet. Considered too young at fifteen, she was not selected for the team. That disappointment prompted her to seek out a sports scholarship in a country where she could develop her talent better. The University of Texas offered her one and she began there in 1985. It was a good choice and through specific and adapted training she was able to qualify for the Seoul Olympics in 1988. That participation was not crowned with success but she began to prepare for a return match at the 1992 Olympics. In December 1991, however, an injury slowed her in her march to the top. But success was still within reach. She won bronze at the Atlanta Games in 1996, ten gold medals at the African and Commonwealth games, and first place in the 4X100 metre event at the World Nations Athletics Cup. With so many wins, it can be safely said that Mary Onyali-Omagbemi deserves her title of Nigerian Sprint Queen.

41 - Oscar Pistorius
The Man Who Runs With No Legs

He might have spent his life in a wheelchair. In 1987 when doctors told Mr. and Mrs. Pistorius, from a rich white manufacturing family in South Africa, that their eleven-month-old son Oscar Pistorius had a congenital disability caused by an absence of fibulas, they proposed two options, life in a wheelchair or amputation. The courage it took to opt for amputation has inspired their son ever since. Wearing prostheses he would lead a normal life and defy the laws of his handicap. As a child he was hyperactive and very athletic, playing rugby and just three years ago he started athletics.
Since then he has won in the Paralympics on sprint distances of 100, 200, and 400 metres and has challenged fully able runners. Second in the 400-metre events in the Golden League in Rome, he then applied for authorization to participate in the upcoming Olympics. The IAAR rejected his application at first arguing that his high-tech prostheses gave him an advantage, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned that decision. “Blade Runner”, the nickname he has earned because of the blade prostheses he uses, has become a media and publicity phenomenon. Time identified him as one of the 100 sports personalities in 2007. At the age of twenty-two, as a member of the South Africa Olympic team, he will perhaps be the first person with a heavy handicap to take part in the Olympics along with able runners.

42 - Laurent Pokou
A 38-year Old Record

The spirit of former Ivorian football star Laurent Pokou was floating over the last Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. His record of fourteen goals set thirty-eight years earlier was threatened. It was finally equalled and topped by the Cameroon star Samuel Eto’o. When Laurent congratulated the young new record holder, he mentioned that it was normal for records to fall and then remarked that none of his goals were scored on penalty shots. The pride and subtlety of his remark were allowed for a 61-year-old.
Laurent Pokou was twice crowned top scorer in the Africa Cup of Nations, first when he scored six goals in Ethiopia followed by eight goals in Sudan in 1970, including five in one game against Ethiopia. That earned him the nickname “the man from Asmara”, after a former Ethiopian city that is now capital of Eritrea. That was a record number of goals scored by one player in a single game. Known for his straight talk, Laurent Pokou has come to be recognized as the symbol and reference in Ivorian football. He was the first person from the Ivory Coast to have a professional career abroad. After two years with the Stade rennais FC (1974-76), he put his goal-scoring and passing skills to work for the AS Nancy Lorraine (1976-78) togther with the equally legendary Michel Platini.
Today he is a member of the Ivorian Football Federation and a FIFA Goodwill Ambassador for the humanitarian project SOS Children’s Villages. The Ivorian journalist Tiburce Koffi along with fellow journalist from Brittany Jean-Yves Augel is preparing a biography tentatively entitled Laurent Pokou, Goal Magician.

43 - Battling Siki
First African World Boxing Champion

Mbarick Fall Siki was born in Saint-Louis in Senegal in 1897. While still a teenager, he met a Dutch dancer who had come to visit Senegal. She took him to Marseille where he grew up. His punch was soon spotted by local trainers who immediately started teaching him how to box. He was a fast learner and at fifteen he had already boxed in sixteen fights with a record of eight wins, six ties, and two defeats. The First World War interrupted his career and Siki joined the French army. His outstanding courage and fighting spirit earned him the Croix de guerre and a Médaille militaire. Nicknamed Battling Siki, he took up boxing again in 1918 and soon was champion of France. On September 22, 1922 he challenged the idol of French boxing, Georges Carpentier, the light heavyweight champion of the world. Carpentier was forced to leave the ring on a stretcher while the referees declared him winner amid boos from the crowd who were all rooting for Battling Siki. He was eventually declared winner of the fight that he had supposedly lost.
The “championzee” as he was called by the racist newspapers of the time had refused to lie down. Renowned as a lady’s man, especially white ladies – the ultimate sin – Battling Siki was a proud and confident playboy who became a media phenomenon similar to Jack Johnson in the United States, the first black World Champion, who Siki fought in Montréal in 1923. Siki like Johnson would be the target of racists who ruined his career. He then headed to the United States where his rebellious character combined with an uncanny ability to win fights that he was supposed to lose would cost him his life. In December 1925 when Battling Siki won a fight that the mafia had told him to lose, he was shot dead in New York at the age of twenty-eight. He would have been the first African world champion and above all a fearless and irreproachable black man.

44 - Paul Tergat
Hunger For Cross-country

As a child Paul Tergat ran many kilometres to school on an empty stomach until his school was included in the daily-breakfast-at-school program provided free of charge by the World Food Program (WFP). Once he became one of the world’s top cross-country runners, he gladly agreed to be an “Ambassador Against Hunger” for the WFP in January 2004.
Crowned cross-country champion five times, he was the world record holder in the half-marathon (59 min 17 s) and the marathon (2 hours 4 min 55 s), records set respectively in Milan in 1998 and Berlin in 2003. Since then Haile Gebreselassie has broken the records. But Tergat’s history is no less glorious. In cross-country, he was world champion each year from 1995 through 1999, bronze medal in the 2000 metres and silver in the 10,000-metre distance at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 in the 10,000 metres. In the athletics World Championships in his favourite distance of 10,000 metres, he won bronze at Göteborg in 1995, silver at Athens in 1997 and in Seville in 1999. Paul Tergat will be with the Kenyan delegation at the Beijing games in 2008, but he announced in May that he would not run the marathon. The former world record holder said that he is not ready for that distance. “I just finished a training session and I’m not sufficiently prepared.” For the 10,000 metres however, Paul Tergat is more than ready for Beijing.

45 - Gabriel Tiacoh
Running To Death

On April 4, 1992, Ivory Coast was seized with emotion. The only Olympic champion in Ivorian history had died of meningitis at the age of twenty-nine. Gabriel Tiacoh died as rapidly as his career had begun. In 1976 at the age of thirteen, he started out fast at the municipal sports centre at Épinay-sur-Seine, in France, mastering both flat track and hurdles. He became junior and university champion of France. Then Gabriel registered at Washington State University in 1983 and won the Pacific-10 Conference. After winning the African Championship in 400 metres in Rabat in 1984, he then won the silver medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in a tightly fought race. He thereby became the first West African to win an Olympic medal. Shattering the African record four times in the 400 metres, he established the number one performance in the event in 1986.
Nothing could stop him then as he had no doubt about his talent and ability. Tiacoh trained with the world’s top racers including Julius Korir, Moracho, Nordquist, and Joseph Taiwo, winning medals throughout Europe and America. After his death it was learned that as he performed amazingly on the tracks of the world, he was also performing in university where he earned a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). He probably thought that it would be helpful when his athletic career came to an end. Unfortunately, he died too soon. But heroes fortunately never disappear.

46 - Derartu Tulu
A Shepherd Becomes A Track Gazelle

Until she was sixteen Derartu Tulu’s legs were mainly used to shepherd her family’s livestock on the prairies and high plateaus in her home Arssi region of Ethiopia, which is also the home village of a certain Gebreselassie. When she was still very young, people had seen that the slight girl could run very fast and for long periods. She qualified early for the Olympics and first took part and shone in the 10,000-metre event in Barcelona in 1992. She was twenty, and Olympic history will retain the image of this unknown runner who caught up to and passed the South African champion Elana Meyer who had led steadily for six kilometres. When she crossed the finish line thirty metres ahead of her rival, Derartu Tulu, the black woman waited for Elana Meyer, the white woman – apartheid had just been defeated – and the two women then ran a memorable honour lap together, with each carrying their country’s flags that flew together in the breeze.
At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Tulu kept her title and became the first woman to win two Olympic gold medals in long distance events. On 10,000 metres, she has lost count of all the titles she has collected over the years: silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Göteborg in 1995, gold at Edmonton in 2001, and bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004. This list does not include the many laurels picked up throughout the world in marathons and cross-country races. It should not be forgotten that Tulu Derartu was the first black African woman to win an Olympic title.

47 - George Weah
An African Who Won
the European Ballon d’Or

He was the first non-European and only African to earn the famous France Football Ballon d’or in 1985. George Manneh Oppong Weah carried his country’s colours so high that he came close to becoming Head of State in Liberia. It is thus surprising to learn that Cameroon hesitated to give him citizenship during his thundering participation with the Tonnerre of Yaoundé in 1987 (15 goals in 18 games). He was then spotted by Arsène Wenger who catapulted him to the top in Europe with the AS Monaco. The Liberian imposed his athletic style and new dribbling techniques, won the France Cup in 1991, and reached the Cup of Cups final the following year. He transferred to Paris Saint-Germain and became known as “Mister George” in recognition of his contribution to that club with which he was best scorer and winner of the championship in his first season, a France Cup and a League Cup, and two seasons with the UEFA League of Champions, where he scored goals that went down in history (best scorer in the 1995 competition with eight goals). These performances combined with his adaptation to the Milan AC (46 goals in 114 games and two Italian championships) earned him the FIFA Best Player title and he also beat out all rivals for the 1995 Ballon d’or (against Jürgen Klinsmann, Jari Litmanen, Alessandro Del Piero, Patrick Kluivert). Weah was captain courage of the Liberian national team scoring twenty-two goals and being selected sixty-five times, but above all for very honourable participation twice in the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and 2002. He was very concerned by problems in his country as it emerged from a long civil war, and took his first steps into politics as he completed his career with Chelsea, Manchester City, Olympique de Marseille, and Al Jazira of Abu Dhabi. In 2005 he led the Congress for Democratic Change in the presidential election but was defeated by Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. At the age of forty-two George Weah is Ambassador at large for UNICEF and is very involved in the foundation bearing his name based in Monrovia.

48 - Rashidi Yekini
Stand Back When He Strikes

Following in the footsteps of the legendary Roger Milla, the Nigerian striker Rashidi Yekini played football until the age forty-one before retiring n 2005 from the Gateway FC. Yekini was nicknamed the “Bull from Kaduna” (he originates for that northern Nigerian city) because of his massive physique and his powerful surges through the opposing defence. An icon with the Super Eagles in the 90s, he remains the best scorer in team’s history. Yekini began his career with the Shooting Stars in 1984 coached by national coach Festus Onigbinde who had spotted him playing for an unknown third division tam. That same year he broke onto the national team and participated in the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast where he stood out as a player of the future. The Abiola Babes recruited him and he spent two seasons with the team where he finished as best scorer in the championship. He left Nigeria and joined the Africa Sport of Abidjan where he lit up the Ivorian championships from 1988 to 1990.
Yekini’s reputation reached beyond Africa, and the Portuguese team Vitoria of Setubal signed him up on a five-year contract. As usual he would break through the opposing defence and was twice top Portuguese scorer (1992, 1994), which was a first for an African in that country. In the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994, Nigeria was in better shape than ever coached by Clemence Westerhof of Holland, and the team won the Cup with Yekini dazzling everybody and winning the Golden Shoe (top scorer) in the competition. After a less successful World Cup in the United States, the Nigerian striker signed up with the Olympiakos of Greece. He then played for the Sporting of Gijon (Spain), the Zurich FC (Switzerland) before returning to the Africa Sport in Abidjan. Yekini returned to Nigeria to end his career with the Gateway FC. This football monument participated five times in the Africa Cup of Nations (84, 88, 90, 92, 94) and in two World Cups (94, 98).

49 - Miruts Yifter
An Enigmatic Cross-country Runner

After working in various factories, Miruts Yifter was living peacefully as a captain and pilot in the Ethiopian air force when his superiors noticed that he was a very talented distance runner. The unbelievable rise to the top began in 1968 when he was drafted on to the national team for the Mexico Olympics. That proved to be warm-up for the former soldier who broke out at the Munich Olympics in 1972 winning the bronze medal in the 10,000-metre race. Though he was listed to start the 5000 metres, he did not run for reasons that remain unknown. Some people say he was pressured politically, but he probably was simply lost in the stadium corridors. Yifter did not take part in the Montreal Olympics in 1976 as Ethiopia respected the African boycott of those games.
He thus had to wait eight long years before reaching glory at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. He was the first African athlete to win Olympic gold twice, in the 10,000 and 5000-metre events. Both were epic victories. In the 10,000 metres, he began sprinting on the last 500 metres and passed the Finnish favourite Lasse Viren at the finish line. Five days later in the 5000-metre final, his tactics paid off. Yifter was “trapped” when he began his last lap. However, his team-mate Mohammed Kedir who had been the illusory leader until then moved aside and Yifter ran to win his second gold medal.
A certain Gebreselassie, who was then just seven, admitted that his champion’s instinct was triggered by Miruts Yifter’s double victory in 1980. Yifter stubbornly refused to reveal his age (the dates commonly given are January 1, 1938 or March 15, 1944). He abruptly ended his career and without warning anybody and left to live in exile in the United States.

50 - Badou Zaki
Best African Goalkeeper
Of The Twentieth Century

As a member of the Moroccan national football team, Badou Zaki, who is comfortably over fifty, is a keeper both literally and physically. After having protected Morocco’s goal for more than a decade, he took the team under his wing as coach. The prodigy from Sidi Kacem first met with glory playing ror a club, the Wydad of Casablanca that was Moroccan Champion in 1979 and 1986 and winner of the King’s Cup in 1979 and 1981. In 1986 Badou Zaki signed up with the Real of Madrid in Spain and was captain of that team until 1991. He earned many distinctions including best goalkeeper in the Liga (three straight seasons).
His record is just as impressive with the Lions de l’Atlas with whom he played in three semi-finals in the Africa Cup of Nations and above all in the eighth- final in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. This performance earned him the title of African Golden Boot. After wearing boots, Badou Zaki took over the bench as coach. Since 1993 he has led several different clubs including the FUS of Rabat and the Wydad of Casablanca (winner of the King’s Cup and cup finalist in the African Cup of Nations in 1999). In 2002 he was entrusted with the Lions de l’Atlas that he led to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2004. After Morocco had a less than satisfying participations in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008 under French coach Henri Michel, the Moroccan football leaders called on Badou Zaki and he resumed his work with the team last March.
Badou Zaki was elected Best African Goalkeeper of the Twentieth Century by the African Confederation of Football and he was also named Best Arab Goalkeeper for the same period. His current challenge is to lead Morocco to qualify for the 2010 World Cup to be held in Africa.