Africa’s Undisputed Goal King (Part Fourteen) The Taming of an Atlas Lion

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October 29, 2020
Godfrey Chitalu
Africa’s Undisputed Goal King (Part Fifteen) Africa’s Beckenbauer
November 8, 2020

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 13th 2020)


Despite his exceptional 1972 Africa’s Goal King, Godfrey Chitalu did not feature in the top three of France Football Magazine’s African Player of the Year (APotY) Awards.

While two of the top three are at least arguable (see Part Twelve Where’s the VAR? ) the performance of the fourth placed player, Egyptian Hani Moustafa, in 1972 is simply jaw dropping.

Part Thirteen – Offside, shows that Moustafa, great player that he undoubtedly was, scarcely played in 1972, so how it could possibly compare to Chitalu’s year is anybody’s guess? But what about the top five?

The Atlas Lion’s Roar?

Surely Chitalu would be in the top five at least. Apparently not.

Moroccan striker, Ahmed Faras, came equal fifth with the late great elegant Algerian libero Miloud Hadefi (see Africa’s Goal King Part 15, Africa’s Beckenbauer) which we will publish shortly.

Faras played his entire career with Chabab Mohammédia, which was not one of the better-known Moroccan teams, even at that time. He had better years than 1972, winning the African Player of the Year award in 1975.

Morocco won the African Cup of Nations in 1976, albeit with a strange format – the only time there was no final. These were far better years for Faras.

However, 1972 was a different matter. The Atlas Lions, coached by former Real Madrid forward, Sabino Barinaga Alberdi,[1] went out in the group stage of the AFCON 1972 competition. Barinaga was a much-travelled coach, but never won any major titles.

Nevertheless, 1972 was far from Faras’ most credible year, especially when compared to Chitalu’s year, but Chitalu was not alone in being overlooked inexplicably in 1972. Some of the Republic of Congo’s AFCON winners were overlooked.

Faras had netted a respectable three goals in Cameroon’s only AFCON competition to date. And Morocco were certainly unlucky to go out, as they had an identical record (points and goal difference) as the eventual winners the Congo (formerly Congo-Brazzaville) had in the Group stage, but the Congolese had scored more. However, the Republic of Congo advanced on the drawing of lots.

Faras also netted a hat-trick against Malaysia at the Olympic Games in 1972. Morocco, still coached by Barinaga, went through to Round 2 after coming second in their First Round Group.

However, they performed very poorly in the Second Round, losing all three matches to Poland, the USSR and Denmark. They conceded 11, scoring only once against Denmark, the other team eliminated from all three matches.

The Atlas Lions failed to roar and departed with a goal difference of -10. They were the third team to leave München with that goal difference – the USA and Ghana – doing so in the First Round.

Meanwhile, Moroccan clubs were conspicuous by their absence from the African Cup of Champions Clubs and Faras’ club was not in the top two of Moroccan football in the seasons 1971-72 or 1972-73 anyway.

However, Faras won a champion’s medal in 1980, and will be remembered as one of the greatest players his country produced.


Nevertheless, the Moroccan great, Ahmed Faras, had far better years than 1972. His inclusion in the African Player of the Year (APotY) Award was surprising, as his year was nothing special beyond scoring three goals each at the Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic Games.

Morocco went out at the group stage in the former and second group stage in the latter. It’s hard to see what distinguished his 1972 ahead of quintuple trophy winner and quadruple record setter Godfrey Chitalu. And it’s hard to see how his 1972 compares to let alone beats the year of Congolese AFCON-winners, François M’Pelé or Jean-Michel M’Bono for example.

Faras did not play in Brasil’s Independence Cup, an international gathering, but one that the Africa team hardly covered itself in glory in either – not that playing there should have mattered.

Faras’ performances and figures for 1972 just don’t stand up especially against Chitalu’s or M’Pelé’s or M’Bono’s for that matter.

By what criteria was his 1972 better than theirs?

[1] Barinaga spent the bulk of his playing career at Real Madrid, ending it at Real Betis, which was also the first of his coaching jobs. He coached several top Spanish clubs. His first foray into international coaching was with Nigeria between 1968-69 – sadly during the atrocious Biafran War.

He coached Morocco between 1971-72. His last coaching job was with Moroccan club side the Association Sportive des Forces Armées Royales (ASFAR), which was the only club in Moroccan history to win the top league four times consecutively and the cup three times in a row on two occasions.

It is sometimes known as the Royal Army Club. ASFAR was his first and last club job in Africa.

1 Comment

  1. […] few were as hard to fathom as 1972 (see Different Strokes, Ineligible, Where’s the VAR?, Offside, The Taming of an Atlas Lion, Africa’s Beckenbauer, The End of an Era, The Roots of Decline, The Decline and Fall of […]

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