Ranked! The 7 Best Goalkeepers in the History of African Football

Ranked! The 7 Best Goalkeepers in the History of African Football

Isaac Darko
updated at June 20, 2023 at 8:52 AM
  • One of the most crucial positions in the game of soccer/football is goalkeeping
  • Numerous outstanding African keepers have impacted the sport over the years
  • Sports Brief has ranked the best African goalkeepers ever to grace the game

Goalkeepers - they are the last line of defence and, so often, the man who is left with all the blame. Sometimes, they are the heroes of penalty shootouts; other times, they are the villains.

Goalkeeping is one of the most important positions in the game of soccer/football, and it requires a unique combination of skill, athleticism, and mental toughness to be great.

Here are the seven greatest goalkeepers Africa has ever produced.  Essam El-Hadary, Vincent Enyeama, Thomas N'kono, Joseph-Antoine Bell, Bruce Grobbelaar, Ezzaki Badou, Carlos Kameni
Here are the seven greatest goalkeepers Africa has ever produced. Credit: @ghanaballers Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

In the history of African football, many goalkeepers have become absolute legends of the game, etching their careers into the history books forever, per Bleacher Report.

Sports Brief takes a look at the seven finest African shot-stoppers ever.

7. Carlos Kameni - Cameroon

The Cameroonian made over 200 league appearances for La Liga club Espanyol before switching to rivals Malaga in early 2012.

In 2017, he joined Turkish side Fernabahce after five years with Malagasy. He played all three knock-out matches to help Cameroon win football gold at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Kameni was crucial as the Indomitable Lions finished second at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France.

6. Vincent Enyeama - Nigeria

The former captain of the Nigerian national team played 101 times for the Super Eagles, earning him the title of most-capped player for the west African nation.

He debuted in 2002 and ended his career in 2015. He was a member of the Nigerian side that won the AFCON in 2013 and was named in the tournament's best team.

He represented Enyimba at club level, where he twice won the CAF Champions League. He then signed for Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2007 and won the 'Player of the Year' award in 2009. The following season, he won the league and cup double with the Israeli club.

Clubs: Ibom Stars, Enyimba, Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Lille, Maccabi Tel Aviv

5. Ezzaki Badou - Morocco

Moroccan football icon, Ezzaki Badou - also known by the nickname Zaki - played professional football for 17 years. He represented clubs like AS Salé, Wydad Casablanca, and FUS Rabat, yet RCD Mallorca in Spain was where he played his best football.

Zaki played over 160 league games for Mallorca between 1986 and 1992 in Spain's top two divisions. In 1986, France Football named him the African Footballer of the Year. Three years later, he assisted Mallorca in getting promoted to La Liga.

He was the first of only two African goalkeepers to receive the Ricardo Zamora Trophy that season for his low goals-to-games ratio. A four-time participant in the African Cup of Nations and a member of Morocco’s iconic 1986 World Cup team, Zaki was recognized by the IFFHS as the fourth greatest African goalkeeper of the 20th century.

4. Bruce Grobbelaar - Zimbabwe

With six English First Division (Premier League) titles and a European Cup (Champions League) crown to his credit, Grobbelaar is Africa's most accomplished goalie - as well as wildly eccentric and flamboyant.

In 1981, Liverpool signed Grobbelaar after noticing him playing for Crewe Alexandra on loan. He would prove to be a worthy successor to club legend, Ray Clemence, in what turned out to be a brilliant transfer for both player and club.

Grobbelaar was vital during the 1984 European Cup final penalty shootout between Liverpool and Roma, when he denied Francesco Graziani the winner against the Reds.

3. Joseph-Antoine Bell - Cameroon

Also from Cameroon, Joseph-Antoine Bell had a stellar career that lasted for over 20 years. Strong and brave, he was also masterful as a sweeper keeper and played for the Indomitable Lions since 1977.

However, he didn't earn wider recognition until 1985, when he signed for Marseille. Three years at the Stade Vélodrome were followed by six more years in France with Toulon, Bordeaux, and Saint-Etienne.

Clubs: Union Douala, Africa Sports, Al Mokawloon Al Arab, Marseille, Toulon, Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne.

2. Thomas N'kono - Cameroon

Undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers Africa has produced, N'kono has been an inspiration to many. His legacy has ensured Cameroon's continuity in producing wonderful shot-stoppers.

As reported by Daily Mail, Gianluigi Buffon recognised N'kono as the reason he is a goalkeeper, thanks to his heroics at the 1990 World Cup.

The Cameroonian's career lasted for 23 years and saw him win the AFCON twice and represent his country at three World Cups.

Clubs: Canon Yaoundi, Tonnerre Yaoundi, Espanyol, Sabadell, Hospitalet, Club Bolivar

1. Essam El-Hadary - Egypt

El-Hadary backstopped Al Ahly through an unmatchable era of African football dominance, winning 16 domestic titles, seven African championships, and three Arab region titles.

After making his debut in 1996, he became one of the club’s longest-serving goalkeepers.

El-Hadary is Egypt’s most capped goalkeeper of all time with 159 appearances, representing the Pharaohs in several African Cup of Nations, four of which he won to also make him the competition’s joint-most decorated player. He was included in three teams of the tournament.

At age 45, El-Hadary became the World Cup’s oldest participant when he played in Egypt's final group-stage game against Saudi Arabia. While his country lost that game, the veteran saved a first-half penalty, becoming the first African goalkeeper to save a spot kick in the tournament's history.

Clubs: Damietta, Al Ahly, Sion, Ismaily, Zamalek, Al Merreikh, Wadi Degla, Al-Taawoun, Nogoom.

United fans want Andre Onana

Manchester United fans want Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana to be the club’s number 1 next season, Sports Brief reported.

Onana is linked with a move away from Inter Milan after just one season in Italy, having joined on a free transfer after opting not to renew his Ajax contract.

He enjoyed a stellar relationship with current United boss Erik ten Hag when the two worked together at Ajax and will have no issue adapting to his philosophy.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)