occer is perhaps the most popular sport in the world. It has the largest number of fans – billions, literally, follow local and regional tournaments, and further billions tune in every four years to follow the biggest football tournament in the world, the FIFA World Cup. It is not a surprise that people of every nationality, every color are represented in the soccer field. Today, let us take a look at some of the black players who have stood out through their skill and talent in handling the ball throughout history.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known by his nickname Pelé, is a Brazilian football legend who is seen as the greatest soccer player of all time (so far). Soccer runs in his family – his father and mentor, Dondinho, was also a professional footballer. His story is one that would be a great screenplay: as a child, he worked as a servant in tea shops in the state of São Paulo, learning to play soccer from his father in his spare time. As he couldn’t afford to have a proper ball, he played with a sock stuffed with paper and tied with a string (or sometimes a grapefruit). After playing for a series of amateur teams as a youth, he got the chance to try out for Santos FC, a professional team in Santos, a port city near São Paulo. He signed a professional contract with the club at the age of 15 and scored a goal in his first professional match. Just ten months after signing his professional contract, he was selected for Brazil’s national team – at the 1958 World Cup, he won the Silver Ball for being the second-best player and the Best Young Player award, followed by an impressive list of awards in the years to come.
Pelé holds a series of world records, including the one for scoring the most career goals (1283 goals in 1363 games), the youngest goalscorer in a FIFA World Cup (17 years and 239 days), and the most goals scored in a calendar year (127 goals in 1959).
Fredua Koranteng “Freddy” Adu played as an attacking midfielder, winger, and forward for teams like D.C. United, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and his current team, the Las Vegas Lights. He was born and raised in Ghana, where he played soccer against players three times his size as a child. When he was eight, his mother won the Green Card Lottery, so he moved with his family to Rockville, Maryland. At the age of 14, he became the youngest player to sign with a Major League Soccer team – he was D.C. United’s number one overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. Three months later, he became the youngest player to appear in an MLS game, and later the youngest scorer ever in MLS.
Adu later became a “journeyman” – in the last 15 years, he played for fourteen teams in eight different countries.
Last but not least, let us mention the player that may become the next Pelé, Frenchman Kylian Mbappé. Born in Paris to a Cameroonian father and Algerian mother, he was infused with the love of sports since an early age – his father was a football coach, while his mother, a professional handball player. As a child, he was coached by his father – later, he moved to the Clairefontaine academy, France’s football center specialized in training soccer players. Several high-profile soccer teams tried to sign him at the time – he settled for AS Monaco, starting to play with the senior team at the age of 16. His speed and dribbling skills made him stand out of the crowd, resulting in the high-profile French club Paris Saint Germain signing him in the second-highest soccer transfer contract in history – around $202 million.
While Mbappé is still at the beginning of his career (he’s only 20), he is already considered one of the best soccer players of our time. He is the second ever teenager to score in a FIFA World Cup (after Pelé) and won the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award for his performance in the field.The Most Successful Black Soccer Players of All Time