You don’t have to be a hard core soccer fan to enjoy the enormous world event that is the World Cup. Every 4 years, the best national soccer teams in the world gather to put on the most watched show across the globe.
For decades, Black soccer, or football as it’s called by most of the world, have given us some of the best moments in World Cup history. These are just some of them.
1. Pele’s First World Cup in 1958
Pele is without a doubt one of the best if not the best soccer player in the history of the game. He’s responsible for soccer being called the beautiful game. Pele was the youngest player in World Cup history when he made his debut in the 1958 World Cup at the age of 17. He recovered from an injury to start on Brazil’s 3rd match against the Soviet Union, where he registered an assist to help his country win. From that point on, Pele exploded onto the world soccer stage, scoring one of the most jaw-dropping goals in World Cup History against Sweden.
After that world cup, Pele became a household name around the world, making him the first Black athlete to become a global superstar. Pele went on to win the world cup 3 times, the only soccer player in history to achieve that feat.
Cameroon beats Argentina in 1990
Argentina has historically been a tough team to beat on the world stage. In 1990, Argentina had the soccer God himself, Diego Maradona so you can imagine how much of an upset it was when Cameroon, an underdog, beat Argentina unexpectedly. When Cameroon won, the victory was celebrated not just in Cameroon but across Africa and beyond. It was a moment that proved that African teams can compete on the same level as any other teams.
Speaking of their win, Cameroon player and goalscorer Francois Omam-Biyik said: “No one thought we would do anything here against Maradona, but we knew what we could do. We hate it when European reporters ask us if we eat monkeys and have a witch doctor. We are real football players and we proved this tonight.”
Roger Milla in 1990
Speaking of Cameroon in 1990, let’s talk about their star player Roger Milla. Milla was already retired for 2 years when the president of Cameroon called him to ask him to make a comeback to play in the 1990 World Cup in Italy at the age of 38. He scored 2 goals against Romania, helping Cameroon top their Group. Milla scored two more goals in extra time against Colombia, making Cameroon the first African country to reach quarterfinals.
What Milla is most remembered for is his victory dance. After each one of his goals, he would run to the corner flag and dance. That move became the most memorable celebration of the 1990 world cup and has been copied by countless players for decades since then. Milla came back to the world cup one more time in 1994 at the age of 42.
Tshabalala’s Beautiful First Goal in 2010
South Africa was the first African country to host the world cup in 2010, so you can imagine how the whole continent was bubbling with energy in anticipation of the games. The opening game of the cup was between host nation South Africa and Mexico.
The first goal of the match came from South African player Siphiwe Tshabalala which ignited the whole continent. The first goal of the first world cup in Africa being scored by an African player was a historic moment, one that still brings smiles and pride to African soccer fans.
Sunday Oliseh’s Incredible Goal vs Spain in 1998
In 1998, Spain came to the world cup as one of the greatest soccer teams ever. They were undefeated for dozens of games before the ‘98 world cup. On the flip side, the Nigerian national team had seen defeat after defeat. They lost three pre-world cup friendly games against Germany, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands before the World Cup. Their confidence was in need of major repair when they faced Spain in their first group match.
Against all odds, Nigeria had scored 2 goals to tie with Spain. Then entered Sunday Oliseh to score his astonishing goal from 35 yards in the 78th minute to win the game for Nigeria. Oliseh has called that moment one of the best moments of his life.
Nigeria went on to advance to the next round while Spain was shockingly eliminated.
Senegal Beats The Odds To Defeat France in 2002
If Spain was a tough team to beat in 1998, France was an even tougher team to beat in 2002 with its collection of star soccer players. France had won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship, so they were easily the team everyone was betting on.
But on opening day, Senegal stunned the defending champions in what was their first-ever world cup appearance. Senegal finished off the game 1-0 and beat their former colonial masters in what will go down as one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.
Zambia’s Win After A Tragedy
For our last story, we turn to Zambia where the story is tragic and does not take place in the World Cup. In 1994, the talented Zambian national team was on its way to Senegal to play against Morocco in a World Cup Qualifier. Tragically, their plane crashed off the coast of Gabon and the whole team died, except for star Player Kalusha Bwalya, who was traveling from Holland to rejoin his team-mates.
Bwalya rebuilt the team with the help of the federation with young players from the domestic team. The newly-assembled team beat Morocco just a month after the tragic accident. Unfortunately, the Zambian team failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup but had success in the 1994 Cup of Nations tournament in Tunisia.
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