Africa boasts over 25 Champions League winners since the competition’s inception in 1955, but who was the first player to win it?
Africa has played an important role in football history. Some remarkable players have come from the continent, showcasing incredible skills and winning Europe’s biggest club competitions.
The first African to win the Champions League was Bruce Grobbelaar. The Zimbabwean goalkeeper won the competition with Liverpool in May 1984 in Rome, Italy. To date, he is the only footballer from Zimbabwe to win in Europe and only the second in Southern Africa after Benni McCarthy.
In this feature, we briefly recall Grobbelaar’s famous night in Rome from 27 years ago, look at how many African players have won the Champions League, and who are the most successful.
Grobbelaar, the first African to win the Champions League
In 1984, Liverpool were European royalty. The Reds were a formidable side boasting legends such as Graeme Souness, Mark Lawrenson, Kenny Dalglish, and Ian Rush. The latter, in fact, enjoyed his most prolific season back then. He found the back of the net 47 times.
1984 European Cup Final
Olimpico Stadium, Rome
AS Roma 2 – Liverpool 4 (Penalties)
Bruce Grobbelaar, Alan Kennedy, Kenny Dalglish, Mark Lawrenson, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush.
Phil Neal, Sammy Lee, Graeme Souness (C), Craig Johnston, Ronnie Whelan. pic.twitter.com/EdAeiNdGc4
— The Soul of Liverpool (@YoyokYoshikatsu) October 27, 2021
The English giants had won three of the last seven Champions League titles – known as the ‘European Cup’ back then – and already had the league title and EFL Cup in the bag by the time they headed to Italy.
But when it came to the European final, Grobbelaar – not Rush, Dalglish, or any other star names you may expect – was the man of the moment.
In 13 seasons at Anfield, Grobbelaar’s most famous moment in a Reds shirt came then. Liverpool could only draw 1-1 with Roma after Roberto Pruzzo canceled out Phil Neal’s opening goal. Therefore, the club’s European hopes rested on the Zimbabwean’s shoulders in a penalty shootout.
And he didn’t disappoint.
The goalkeeper famously forced Roma players Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani into missing their spot-kicks by employing his ‘spaghetti legs’ stance.
From a goal down after Steve Nicol missed the first penalty, Grobbelaar’s heroics led Liverpool to a 4-2 win in the shootout to become the first English club to win all three major trophies in one season.
1984 European Cup Final. Bruce Grobbelaar’s spaghetti legs win it for Liverpool in the penalty shootout. pic.twitter.com/iT9UXPunzo
— When Football Was Better (@FootballInT80s) October 20, 2018
How many Africans have won the Champions League?
26 players from Africa have won the Champions League since UEFA founded the competition in 1955. Most winners from the continent have come from West Africa. Here we have a list of every Champions League winner.
|Rabah Madjer||🇩🇿||FC Porto||1987|
|Achraf Hakimi||🇲🇦||Real Madrid||2018|
|Benni McCarthy||🇿🇦||FC Porto||1984|
|McDonald Mariga||🇰🇪||Inter Milan||2010|
|Samuel Kuffour||🇬🇭||Bayern Munich||2001|
|Seydou Keita||🇲🇱||Barcelona||2009, 2011|
|Sulley Muntari||🇬🇭||Inter Milan||2010|
|John Obi Mikel||🇳🇬||Chelsea||2012|
|Geremi||🇨🇲||Real Madrid||2000, 2002|
|Samuel Eto’o||🇨🇲||Barcelona/Inter||2006, 2009, 2010|
Who has won the most titles?
We know who was the first African to win the Champions League, but has won the most titles? That would be Samuel Eto’o. The Cameronian striker won the competition three times, twice with Barcelona (2006, 2009) and once at Inter Milan (2010).