Many of Africa’s star players were on show this weekend, as viewers enjoyed a full complement of Premier League matches. Bleacher Report considers the big hits and the big misses for the continent’s boys over the weekend.
Several of Africa’s key figures made headlines before a ball had been kicked in contributing to one of the weekend’s major subplots. With protagonists from John Terry to Serbian xenophobes bringing the subject of racism right back to the forefront of the public psyche, a number of players chose to boycott the FA’s ‘Kick It Out’ initiative and protest against the lack of progress in the battle against racism.
Many chose not to wear the prescribed FA T-shirts in order to demonstrate their disdain for the campaign; among these were Nigerian stars Victor Anichebe and Nedum Onuoha, as well as Bafana Bafana midfielder Steven Pienaar.
In one of the weekend’s more striking results, Chris Hughton’s Norwich bested Arsenal at Carrow Road. Africa’s finest performer over the two days was found in this match, as Canaries centre-back Sebastien Bassong put on a masterclass. Whilst Arsenal failed to find coherency in their attacking play, the Norwich defence showed a composure and a resiliency that greatly impeded the Gunners.
Bassong, once of Spurs, was central to this, and displayed maturity, assurance, and confidence in marshaling the backline from its heart. Displays like this add to the unlikely nature of Cameroon’s failure to overcome minnows Cape Verde and qualify for the AFCON.
Sunday brought much less fortune for the Premier League’s African stars, as two of the continent’s golden sons saw red, arguably costing their teams the chance of victory.
Newcastle hardman Cheick Tioté was first to be dismissed. The Ivorian enforcer saw red after a high tackle on Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher. Matches between the two giants of the North East are always heated affairs that can bring the worst out of the more rambunctious players in the two line-ups, but the Magpies could well have secured the three points had Tioté kept his head.
In the later kick-off between Everton and QPR, it was another African star that made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Influential midfielder Steven Pienaar isn’t one normally associated with ill-discipline, but after one foul too many, he saw a second yellow card, ending the South African’s day early.
Blues boss David Moyes fumed at his dismissal, which, in truth, was tame, despite Everton still managing to escape London with a point. He, along with Everton fans, knew that it could have been much more.