UEFA Champions League Final features four African Players

Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)

 by Abdulfetah Sigal  

Madrid, Spain – When Italian League Champion and Cup winner Inter Milan faces German giants Bayern Munich in the final of the European Champions’ League here on Saturday, they will have four players of African heritage in their line-up.  

Strikers Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) and Mario Barwuah Balotelli ((Italian/Ghanaian),and midfielders Ali Sulley Muntari (Ghana) and McDonald Mariga (Kenya) have been named in Coach José Mourinho’s final list of 25 players.  

Samuel Eto’o will more likely be in the spot light among the four players mentioned above as he is just 90 minutes away from winning his third Champions’ League medal in 5 years. And  if  he scores on saturday, the Nkon native will become t the first player  in the history of current champions’ league format, to score a goal in three separate finals. That will be a great accomplishment!  

McDonald Mariga (Kenya)


 This African connection even gets more interesting when attention is shifted to the up and coming Kenyan midfield player McDonald Mariga. The Nairobi-born ex-Parma player was poised to join Manchester City and thus become the first East African player to feature in the English Premier League, but unfortunately, due to some silly complications in the English football regulations, he was denied a work permit.  

It was then that Inter Milan and Mourinho acted in the nick of time to sign the big Kenyan for a reported fee of 2.5 million pounds. On March 16th, Mariga made history when he came in as a late substitute against Chelsea, to become the first Kenyan player to feature in the Champions’ League. Mariga can elevate his unique status further if he plays and wins Saturday’s eagerly anticipated final.  Simply No east African has done that.  


This year’s Champions’ League Final match will be remembered for few historic highlights:  

Mario Balotelli (Italian/Ghanaian)


The most notable change is that the final will be held on a Saturday rather than the traditional Wednesday. Kudos to UEFA President Michel Platini and co. for making this important switch, specially for students in the U.S. such as yours truly, as we don’t have to skip classes in order to watch the most important game in club  football.   

The second thing is that at the end of the game on Saturday, (whoever wins) the two teams will not only have the bragging rights of being Europe’s Best club but also complete the treble, just like Manchester United in 1999 and Barcelona last year. 

Bayern Munich won the league and cup double in a scintillating fashion. The 4-0 demolition of an in form Werder Bremen side in the German cup was as awe inspiring as a serious warning to the black and blue of Milan. Every football fan would agree that their 4-1 away win over Juventus last December was the catalyst act in overturning an otherwise bumpy start in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Meanwhile, Inter had to beat Roma to clinch the Italian cup before finishing on top of the Serie A ahead of the same Roma side and make sure they retain the scudetto.  


When it comes to battle of the coaches – besides the significant differences in their tactical approach to the game – Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal are vying to win their second champions league medal. Van Gaal did it in 1995 with the legendary Ajax side where as the Portuguese tactician carried FC Porto to their second Champions League title in 2004.  

There is also one more interesting scenario about these two guys. It’s going to be a teacher locking horns with his former student. Yup! Mourinho was a young and ambitious assistant to Van Gaal during the latter’s first stint as a Barcelona coach.  

Sulley Muntari (Ghana)


 But for Mourinho and Eto’o to achieve the aforementioned honors, they first have to overcome the Bavarian Giants at the Bernabeu.  

Players to Watch:-  

Inter Milan – Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito 

Bayern Munich – Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller