ONE OF A KIND: Africa Counts on Mendy’s Success as Much as Chelsea Does


Up for a challenge, mate?

Well, grab a sheet of paper, please. Now, make a list of successful African footballers in Premier League history, one for each position on the football pitch.


Here’s a guess: you probably breezed through most of the positions. If you struggled with any, in fact, it might have been the very first slot: goalkeeper. Don’t blame your memory, though; it’s not failing. And don’t think you’re any less knowledgeable about the Premier League than you’ve always bragged. More likely, it is because Africa doesn’t export enough [great] goalkeepers to Europe, and the few that travel beyond these shores rarely ever make the Premier League a port-of-call.

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There was, famously, Bruce Grobbelaar excelling for many years at Liverpool, but the Zimbabwean had faded as a force by the time the Premier League era kicked in. And that’s why new Chelsea signing Edouard Mendy would find little inspiration from the history of African goalkeepers in England; there is, in fact, barely any history at all.



Mendy is, after all, the last African goalkeeper anyone — even himself — would have bet on to reach the Premier League. That he is here — after crawling from unemployment, through the tiers of French club football, to one of the biggest sides in the world’s biggest league — is proof of just how driven Mendy is.

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“When this story is discussed, then I realise the path I have been on in my career. It’s true that it’s incredible,” the Senegal international told Chelsea’s official website. “People say hard work pays off, and it does. I have worked very hard; I haven’t taken anything for granted. I was at Marseille, and then Reims, and then Rennes, and now Chelsea. It’s been a constant progression, and now I am ready to continue on that upward path.”

Goalkeepers he may not find, but the history of the Premier League — and of Chelsea — swirls with sterling examples of African excellence, from defence through attack. If Stamford Bridge has a wall of fame, somewhere in the giant stadium’s bowels, Mendy might find the faces of African legends plastered. Even if he doesn’t, well, the 28-year-old already knows the tales.

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“Most of the biggest African talent has played for this team,” he said. “Drogba, Essien, Eto’o, Mikel. When you see that, you want to continue it. Regarding the goalkeeper, I am the first, so it really makes me very proud, and it’s also a big responsibility.”

The task at hand is, indeed, enormous. Chelsea probably didn’t think they’d be bringing in a new, potential first-choice goalkeeper this soon after signing off a world-record £71.6 million for Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga — on a seven-year deal, no less. Two years in, Arrizabalaga — a victim of his own weaknesses and the goalkeeping role’s idiosyncrasies — has seen his continued status as Chelsea’s No.1 become untenable.

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The last straw, seemingly, was the gift — all wrapped and tied up — for Sadio Mane to help condemn the Blues to defeat in their last Premier League game, at home to champions Liverpool. Less than a week later, Mendy — Mane’s countryman, by the way — has been unveiled, some 17 years after buying his first Chelsea shirt on a trip to England.

Chelsea may not have splashed as much cash on acquiring Mendy from Rennes (£22m), or even tied him down for as long as they have Arrizabalaga (five years), but the club has certainly invested as much — maybe more — faith in him turning out better. As a black goalkeeper, expectations to deliver are greater still, but Mendy must be inspired to meet them.

There is, remember, a slot on our sheets waiting to be filled.

NY Frimpong — Daily Mail GH

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