On a weekend that started with the announcement of the groups at this year’s African Nations Cup (AFCON), 2 Africans made their mark in what is, perhaps, their biggest game of their season. At Anfield, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah banished the demons of Gerrard’s slip by hammering Chelsea to put Liverpool as favourites to win the English Premier League title. In the face of ‘bomber’ chants from rival supporters, they provided the perfect response. This wasn’t a normal win…this win means more…for Africa.
First of all, previous title wins have hardly involved more than one African; Yaya Toure was a key part of Man City’s title wins in 2012 and 2014 while Didier Drogba was Chelsea’s biggest asset in his prime when they won the league title as well…even Riyad Mahrez deserves a mention for his PFA-winning role in Leicester City’s fairytale league triumph. But rarely has it been seen that 2 Africans would spearhead a title win, let alone one that is long overdue. Liverpool have not won the league title since 1990…that’s too long. Man City may have Mahrez in their side but he has already won the trophy, and so this will feel more special if Salah and Mane got the title instead.
The title serves as great build-up to the AFCON. The competition will be held, for the first time, in the summer. Salah and Mane, barring injury or whatever-reason-for-being-absent (God please), will be at the tournament; with Egypt and Senegal set to take centre-stage. After a dismal World Cup for both sides, the AFCON represents a golden chance to set things right. What better to do it than with a Premier League winner in your side? Even Nabi Keita could be in the tournament…Guinea also qualified. Awesome.
Finally, this will go some way to tackle racism as an issue. The ‘bomber’ chants Mane and Salah were subjected to border on this. To make such chants against another human just because of his religion is just disgusting. Unfortunately, football authorities have no answer to this, so the players have to make do with what they have; their performances. Raheem Sterling showed that the best way to upset those giving the chants is to keep winning on the pitch. Winning the league title for Liverpool (who badly need this trophy after 29 long years) will put Mane and Salah on a pedestal like no other; showing that Africans are just as powerful as anything thrown at them. It will be a win against all forms of discrimination.
It is ironic that on the day that Gerrard made that unfortunate slip, an African took advantage to wreck Liverpool’s title hopes. Demba Ba may have left his mark in Liverpool’s history with his strike that day but Salah and Mane (a Senegalese like Ba) can re-write it all. They’ve already started with that incredible victory against Chelsea. Now, let’s see if they can see it through…for Liverpool…for Africa.