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Roger Milla: Africa's Best
by Amin George Forji
2007-01-19 08:36:14
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The Confederation of African Football (CAF), as part of festivities to mark its 50th anniversary on February 8th, has published the names of what it calls the 30 Best African Players in the Last 50 years.

top30_400 Ovi magazine Ovi-lehtiLast year in October, CAF asked its website users to nominate the 50 most-outstanding players who have played a significant role in the development of football in Africa between 1957 and 2006.

According to the results released on Sunday 14th January, Cameroon soccer legend Roger Milla deservedly received the highest number of votes (2246 votes) from the 200 nominees. Therefore, he becomes the best player to have emerged in the continent during the last half century. Two Egyptians, Mahmoud al-Khatib and Hossam Hassan finished in second and third place respectively, with 2165 and 2011 votes.

The current African Player of the Year, Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, the only player to have won the award three times consecutively (2004, 2005 and 2006), came fourth with 1840 votes. Eto’o was closely followed by the former Ghanaian legend, Abedi Pelé.

Although CAF, at the time of launching the poll, made an initial pre-selection of 200 players, they, nevertheless, allowed their site users to vote for any player, even if they were not mentioned on their list. The initial selection was done on the basis of national, regional, continental, FIFA Olympic competition and, of course, the World Cup.

Moreover, considering that players of the older generation received much less media impact than footballers today, CAF decided to mitigate the difference by introducing a ratio coefficient, dividing the period under competition into four:

1957-1970: coefficient 4
1971-1980: coefficient 3
1981-1990: coefficient 2
1991–2006: coefficient 1

CAF had initially planned to release the long-awaited results in descending order (from 30th to first) by one player a day. However, they were inundated with immense pressure from anxious Internet users to publish the results in its entirety, two weeks before the scheduled date of February 8th.

Roger Milla is often credited as the inspiration behind modern African football and was undoubtedly a major actor behind Cameroon's football success story. Milla played three World Cups, notably 1982, 1990 and 1994, and he reached his peak at 38 during the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, carrying his country to a colourful quarter finals. He was in magic form throughout the competition, showing exceptional quick dribbling and great vision, thus winning him a place in the hearts of football fans the world over.

It has been said that Milla is the best substitute player in the history of the World Cup. In fact, coming on as a substitute, he scored four goals at the 1990 tournament and set-up the two other Cameroon goals against England in the Quarter Finals. Interestingly, prior to the 1990 tournament, Milla had retired. But on the eve of the competition, he received a phone call from the president of Cameroon who pleaded with him to come out of retirement and put on the national jersey. He accepted the plea.

Milla has also gone down in history as the player who introduced dance culture to World Cup football. After he celebrated each of his four goals by performing the famous Cameroon Makosaa dance at the corner post, celebrating goals has become standard for Milla is the only African on FIFA's list of classic players. The Cameroon-England match that Milla dominated was also named as a FIFA classic match. He has been voted twice as the "Best African Player of the Year" and he was also named in the chart of 100 World’s Best Players Ever, compiled by Pele of Brazil. He was chosen along with George Weah of Liberia as the best African players of the century.

And at the age of 42, Milla played in the U.S. World Cup. During that tournament, as a substitute, he scored a symbolic goal against Russia, thus breaking his own record as the oldest player to score in a World Cup tournament. After the 1994 World Cup, Milla went into music, releasing one album with his wife, but it was never a hit. He is presently a roving ambassador for Cameroon and UNAIDS.

CAF was created on February 8th 1957 in Khartoum, Sudan, with Sudan, South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia as founding members. Today the body has grown to incorporate all the 53 countries in the continent making it one of the most competitive football organizations in the world.

Roger Milla's Career

1970-1973 Leopard Douala
1974-1977 Tonnerre Yaounde
1977-1979 Valenciennes
1979-1980 Monaco
1980-1984 Bastia
1984-1986 Saint-Etienne
1986-1989 Montpellier

Club Honours:
1972 Cameroon Champion (Leopard Douala)
1973 African Champions' Cup: Semi-final (Leopard Douala)
1974 Cameroon Cup winner (Tonnerre Yaounde)
1976 African Cup Winners' Cup winner (Tonnerre Yaounde)
1976 African Golden Ball winner
1980 French Cup winner (Monaco)
1981 French Cup winner (Bastia)
1987 French Division 2 winner (Montpellier)

International Honours:
1982 FIFA World Cup Spain TM; first round
1984 African Cup of Nations winner
1984 Top scorer at the African Cup of Nations (4 goals)
1984 Olympic Games: First Round
1986 African Cup of Nations finalist
1986 Player of the tournament at the African Cup of Nations
1988 African Cup of Nations winner
1990 FIFA World Cup Italy TM; quarterfinals
1994 FIFA World Cup USA TM; first round / FIFA

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