In the beautiful world of sports, whenever a country, a club, or an individual athlete does the unthinkable or the unimaginable, breaking barriers & records, and rising to the very top, it creates a moment that fans, sports lovers and the whole world will never forget.
Over the years, Africans have celebrated many special moments in sports. Let’s count down the Top 10 African Sports Moments of All-Time.
10. THE MOMENT ROGER MILLA BECAME THE OLDEST PLAYER TO SCORE AT THE WORLD CUP
A moment popular in the history books. At the age of 42, Milla became the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history by scoring against Russia in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Milla was an influential member of the Cameroonian side that reached the Quarterfinals four years earlier at the 1994 world. Milla’s longevity proved to be a common trait amongst Africans. Milla remains the greatest African football of all time in the books of many observers.
9. Van Niekerk’s Three World Records
Now, to Athletics and the olmpics, where a South African runner, created a sensational moment on perhaps the grandest stages of them all.
At the Olympics in Brazil in 2016, Van Niekerk won the gold medal with a world record time of 43.03 seconds (reaction time 0.181 s) at age 24 years and 30 days, beating the time of 43.18 seconds set by Michael Johnson during the 1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain.
It’s one thing to set the world record at any event, it’s another thing to set that world record at the Olympics.
In 2016, Van Niekerk became the first, and to date, only, sprinter in history to have run the 100 metres in under 10 seconds, 200 metres in under 20 seconds, and 400 metres in under 44 seconds
8. David Rudisha 2012 World Record 2012
Kenyan Athlete, David Rudisha set the world record at the 2012 Olympics over the 800 meters, with a time of a minute and 40 seconds, recorded officially as; 1:40.91.
The 800Ms has been an Olympic event since the first games in 1896. The event combines aerobic endurance with anaerobic conditioning and sprint speed, and Rudisha showed and proved those abilities on the track beating other noteworthy competitors to set the world record.
It was a moment that helped to further seal Africa’s place in the history of Athletics.
7. Derartu Tulu Became The First Black African To Win An Olympic Title
An Ethiopian Long distance runner, Derartu Tulu is known as the first African, black female athlete to win an Olympic title. Tulu was born in the village of Bekoji, in the Arsi region of central Ethiopia in 1969. Derartu is the first Ethiopian woman and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, which she won in the 10,000 m event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. The moment she achieved this, African women were no longer overlooked when It came to predictions as to who wins long-distance races at the Olympics. A moment which symbolizes true African spirit and culture.
6. Chioma Ajunwa’s Long Jump Gold Medal, 1996
Chioma Ajunwa is the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. This she achieved the moment she jumped 7.12 meters at the 1996 Olympics, earning her a gold medal and making her the first individual gold medal winner for Nigeria at the Olympics. This moment served as an inspiration for many African athletes over the years.
5. George Weah Winning The World’s Best Player Award In 1995
Liberian superstar and current President, George Weah created two iconic moments in 1995 by being named FIFA world player of the year and Ballon d’Or winner.
Those were moments that rewarded his fine performances, helping the forward to become the first and only African footballer to be named the best player in the world.
For the Ballon d’or, George Weah beat out Bayern Munich’s Jurgen Klinsmann and Ajax’s Jari Litmanen to the award on December 24th 1995.
For FIFA world player of the year, George Weah beat out Paolo Maldini and Jurgen Klinsmann to the award.
The moments George Weah was called up to the podium to receive the prize as the best player in the world is one that every African footballer cherishes and dreams of also achieving.
4. South Africa Winning The Rugby World Cup in 1995
Prior to 1995, things were not to good for South Africa as a country. Heavily battling racism spearheaded by the iconic Nelson Mandela. The country had just overturned its oppressive apartheid laws and integrated the only non-white player onto the Springboks, Chester Williams.
The 1995 Rugby world cup which was hosted and won by South Africa was a moment that put African sports on the world map.
The World Cup was the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid.
President Nelson Mandela wore the green Springbok jersey to greet victorious captain Francois Pienaar after South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup and it became a sign of the changing times following the end of apartheid.
It was a remarkable event that remains a reference point for South African rugby even as they won the rugby world cup again in 2019.
3. Nigeria’s Bobsled Team’s Olympic Debut
Bobsleigh or bobsled is a team winter sport that involves making timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh. It’s not a sport that Africans are traditionally known or associated with like football & Athletics.
The Nigeria bobsled team represents Nigeria in bobsledding. The first team was established in 2016 by Seun Adigun, as a women’s team for the 2-women event. In 2017, they qualified to be the first Nigerians at the Winter Olympics, and first Africans in bobsled at the Winter Olympics.
Captain Seun Adigun also made history for being the first African summer and winter olympian after competing in the 2012 summer Olympics.
2. Nigeria Winning Olympic Gold Medal In Football in 1996
The Olympics is a sports tournament that brings all countries all over the world together to participate in over 50 sports.
It is a thing of joy to be chosen to represent your country of birth at the Olympics.
The uniqueness of the Olympics is in the fact that it’s a tournament held every four years.
At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, United States, the Nigerian football team popularly known as the dream team created moments after moments that will never be forgotten, crowning it all by becoming the first African Country to win gold in football at the Olympics.
Comeback wins over a star studded Brazilian Side and Argentinian side heralded the dawn of a new thing for African football.
To come back from 3-1 down against Brazil in the Semi Final was splendid, eventually winning 4-3 thanks to the heorics of Kanu and to comeback from 2-1 down in the final against Argentina winning 3-2, astounding and memorable wins.
A moment that made Europeans and South Americans respect African footballers with players like Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Sunday Oliseh, Victor Ikepba the stars of that team.
1. South Africa Hosting The World Cup In 2010
Can any moment be bigger than hosting the world cup?
This represents a collective win for all Africans. Before the 2010 World Cup, no world cup tournament had been held in Africa as a continent. The idea of an African country hosting football’s most prestigious tournament, became a rallying point for all African countries.
Thankfully, South Africa won the bid to host the world cup and Africa hosted perhaps the best and most popular world cup till date.
There were 94,000 people in attendance at Soccer City in Johannesburg during the opening ceremony as over a billion people world wide tuned in to follow the World cup on African soil.
The Opening ceremony was filled with other special moments, including a five-plane military fly-past, troupes of drummers and dancers, a giant beetle and an amazing map of the African continent. The world cup proper which was held between 11th June to 11th July 2010. also created other buzzing moments, the Jabulani ball, the prediction specialist octopus, Suarez’s bite on Chiellini, the loud vuvuzela and many more.
Financially and on the economic terms, hosting the world cup in 2010 gernrated billion of dollars directly to the South African economy. Hosting the world cup brought long lasting smile & pride to all Africans.
Eliud Kipochoge’s Sub-Two-Hour Marathon
Africans, especially Kenyans and Ethiopians have set the bar high for long-distance races. However, Eliud Kipchoge set the bar higher, becoming the first human to run 26.2 miles in less than two hours!
Kipchoge time of 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds was one no one thought could be achieved decades ago. But with sheer determination, during an event in Vienna, he created an iconic moment, running the marathon in less than two hours. After the race, he was lifted into the air by members of his team, including the 41 professional runners who had acted as pacesetters during the run.
Unfortunately, the record does not count as official as the marathon was not run under the open marathon conditions. However, He is still the world record holder in the marathon with a time of 2:01:39, set on 16 September 2018, at the 2018 Berlin Marathon
Kipchoge won the marathon gold medal in Brazil 2016 Olympics, as well as the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in the 5000m event and a bronze medal at Athens 2004, competing at the 5000ms as well.
The Kenyan record holder is wildly described as the greatest Marathoner of all-time winning 12 of the 13 Marathons he has competed at.
South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup Triumph
The 2019 Rugby world cup final was the United Kingdom’s most-watched TV broadcast in 2019 with a peak audience of 12.8 million on ITV. While winning the Rugby world cup in 1995 was memorable, winning it again in 2019 came with another form of uniqueness.
Led by the dynamic Siyamthanda Kolisi, who became the third South African captain to lift rugby union’s ultimate prize, helping his team to a 32-12 victory over a much-fancied England side in Yokohama, Japan.
In 2018, Kolisi was appointed captain of the Springboks, becoming the first black man to hold the position and he led the re-building of the side contributing greatly. In total, he has scored 30 points in 50 appearances for South Africa.
25 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, Siya Kolisi is seen as a symbol of change and hope in an often white-dominated sport. South African Rugby has seen its fair share of xenophobia since the integration of non-white rugby players in 1995. However, now with a diverse team and a third championship on the mantel, the future of Rugby is bright in South Africa.
Do you agree with our list?
What other African sports moments do you think deserve to be mentioned?