The Greatest African Goalkeepers of All Time

Essam El-Hadary

Egypt's Essam El-Hadary, one of Africa's finest keepers.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

No.1 Thomas N'Kono CAMEROON

Thomas N'Kono was the first African goalkeeper to really make a name for himself on the global stage after a fine World Cup in 1982. That tournament saw him produce some great displays as Cameroon, despite being widely expected to be the whipping boys of Group A, went through the three matches unbeaten and only conceded a single goal, and that was to the eventual champions Italy. These displays led to a move to Spain and tremendous nine-year career with Espanyol.

He was catching the eye on the big stage again in 1990 as Cameroon advanced to the quarter-finals, only for the Indomitable Lions to go out to England in one of Italia '90's most exciting matches. A strong and athletic keeper, N'Kono was capable of some breathtakingly acrobatic saves. He was a flamboyant character too, often performing celebrations in his iconic tracksuit bottoms. Legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, has been quoted as saying that watching N'Kono play at the 1990 World Cup inspired him to become a keeper. High praise indeed.

Clubs: Canon Yaoundé, Tonnerre Yaoundé, Espanyol, Sabadell, Hospitalet, Club Bolívar

No.2 Joseph-Antoine Bell CAMEROON

The 1980s and 1990s was a great time for Cameroon in regards to goalkeepers, having not one, but two, fantastic keepers in N'Kono and Bell, both battling it out for the number one jersey. Strong and brave, Joseph-Antoine Bell was also adept playing as a sweeper keeper and had played for Cameroon since 1977. However, he didn't earn wider recognition until 1985, when he signed for Marseille. Three years at the Stade Vélodrome was followed by six more years in France with Toulon, Bordeaux and finally Saint-Étienne.

Clubs: Union Douala, Africa Sports, Al Mokawloon Al Arab, Marseille, Toulon, Bordeaux, Saint-Étienne.

No.3 Bruce Grobbelaar ZIMBABWE

Africa's most successful goalkeeper, with a European Cup and six English First Division titles to his name. Bruce Grobbelaar was signed by Liverpool in 1981 after being spotted playing for Crewe Alexandra during a loan spell. It would prove to be an inspired move for both player and club as he proved to be a worthy successor to club legend Ray Clemence. The two keepers could barely have been much different, though, for whilst Clemence was solid and dependable Grobbelaar was wildly eccentric and flamboyant. This was highlighted most famously in the penalty shootout of the 1984 European Cup final between Liverpool and Roma, Grobbelaar pretending his legs were turning to spaghetti as Francesco Graziani stepped up to take his kick, in a show of mock terror. Whilst many in the English game weren't used to such antics at the time, no-one can argue with what Grobbelaar achieved at Anfield,

No.4 Essam El Hadary EGYPT

Best known for his twelve seasons with Al Ahly, Egyptian legend El-Hadary played 159 times for the national team over an incredible 22 year period. Nicknamed "the High Dam" due to his imposing size, he won the Africa Cup of Nations four times, and was named the tournament's best goalkeeper on three occasions.

Clubs: Damietta, Al Ahly, Sion, Ismaily, Zamalek, Al Merreikh, Wadi Degla, Al-Taawoun, Nogoom.

No.5 Vincent Enyeama NIGERIA

Enyeama played at two World Cups, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. He was named man of the match in four games during the tournaments, a record for a goalkeeper. As well as being a fine keeper, he was also a decent penalty taker, scoring 27 times during his 19 year career.

Clubs: Ibom Stars, Enyimba, Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Lille.