The United States might be considered the world’s biggest cultural melting pot, but it is England’s Premier League that best represents diversity in professional sports.
Soccer is the global game and the Premier League is the game’s most globally recognized league, so of course it attracts talent from every corner of the globe. Included on that league roster is a growing influx of African athletes over the past 30 years or so, several of them Muslim, such as current players Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Mohamed Salah, to name a few.
Soccer blogger Damian Buxton of Squawka recently ranked the 10 best African players to ever play in the Premier League, a list that included three Muslims:
The Nigerian striker scored 96 goals over nine years with four clubs, the second-highest scoring total for an African in the Premier League. Between 2003 and 2012, Aiyegbeni played for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn. Now 32 years old, he currently plays for Al Rayyan in Qatar’s top pro league. Aiyegbeni is also the No. 3 career scorer for Nigeria’s national team.
Arguably the best player in the world not named Messi or Ronaldo, Toure is a three-time African Footballer of the Year who has helped lead Manchester City to two Premier League titles. Last season, Toure scored 24 goals in 49 appearances for Man City — an astronomical number for a midfielder whose primary responsibility is to pass and set up his teammates. Toure’s Islamic faith became the subject of headlines in 2012 when he famously declined the traditional “Man of the Match” prize bottle of champagne following a match in which he scored two goals, an action that led to the Premier League adjusting its custom and providing non-alcoholic drinks for Muslim players.
Yaya Toure’s older brother has spent his entire senior-level pro career in the Premier League, spending time with Arsenal, Manchester City (where he played alongside Yaya) and his current club, Liverpool. Kolo, a defender, has been on two league championship teams and scored 17 goals in 13 seasons.