African football’s nice guys: Celebrating the continent’s great philanthropists

Last Updated
Goal/Getty

  1. Michael Essien
    William Hill

    Michael Essien

    During his playing career, the Bison set up the Michael Essien Foundation to raise funds to give the underprivileged of his home town access to basic amenities like healthcare equipment, libraries, public toilets and clean drinking water.

    The ex-Chelsea man has also been involved in several charity work including the ‘Reading Goals’ to inculcate reading habits in students.

  2. John Utaka
    Getty

    John Utaka

    The first of several Nigerians on this list who have given back to their homeland in bucketloads, Utaka launched an eponymous foundation to support youth development at grassroots level.

    “I believe that giving back to the society is very essential,” he told journalists upon the launch of his foundation, “because I was in the system before I travelled abroad where I started playing my professional football.”

  3. Emmanuel Adebayor

    Emmanuel Adebayor

    Adebayor’s own foundation can take credit for the launch of various infrastructure projects in Africa, often with a philanthropic bent.

    He’s been involved in various projects in his homeland, and was also influential in the launch of two water projects in the towns of Koro and Hamile in Ghana.

  4. Aaron Mokoena of South Africa
    Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images / Getty Images

    Aaron Mokoena

    Axe did a great deal for various charities during his career, while he also set up his own foundation in South Africa.

    He was an influential figure in the 1Goal initiative, and is known for giving his time and money to those less fortunate than himself.

  5. Sadio Mane of Senegal.
    Senegal.

    Sadio Mane

    Widely celebrated for his generous work off the pitch as well as his quality on it, Mane has contributed extensively to his homeland of Senegal since hitting the big time.

    He has been involved in various construction projects-from hospitals, to mosques, to the launch of a quarter-million-Euro school in his home village of Bambali.

    A video of him cleaning the toilets in a mosque in Liverpool also went viral, highlighting Mane’s selfless attitude.

  6. Didier Drogba Juan Mata Chelsea Bayern Munich Champions League Final 2012
    Getty

    Didier Drogba

    The Chelsea legend’s charity work includes a £3 million donation for the construction of a hospital in Abidjan in 2009 intended to give people “basic healthcare and a chance just to stay alive” and a £400,000 contribution through the Didier Drogba Foundation in 2015 after giving out all his commercial earnings to charity.

    He also used his considerable influence to bring a halt to the Ivorian civil war that had previously raged for half a decade.

  7. John Paintsil Yakubu Aiyegbeni Everton Fulham
    Getty/Goal

    John Paintsil

    The former Black Stars defender set up the Paintsil Peace Kids Project geared towards promoting the interest of children.

    The Foundation aims to promote values of respect, and guide young children towards the path of success.

    It organised football clinics to impart such values upon children.

  8. Samuel Eto'o, Qatar
    Supreme Committee Qatar

    Samuel Eto’o

    The Cameroon legend has been involved with numerous causes during his career, from scholarship programmes to donations to medical initiatives.

    He has been involved in building hospitals and football academies in his homeland, with the Samuel Eto’o Foundation responsible for launching the careers of several top stars.

  9. Joseph Yobo
    Timothy Nofiu

    Joseph Yobo

    Through his Joseph Yobo Charity Foundation, the former Everton man handed out over 300 educational scholarships to the poor ranging from primary school to university.

    He also established a football academy in Nigeria's Ogoni region, and used to spend his off-seasons doing charitable work.

  10. Stephen Appiah
    Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

    Stephen Appiah

    An entrepreneur and a philanthropist, Appiah set up StepApp—his own self-designed clothing range—with all proceeds being channelled into his own foundation.

    It’s a charity that works towards providing health insurance and medical facilities in deprived areas in Ghana.

    Appiah has also been active with the UN’s children’s fund to promote education in Africa.

  11. Kanu Nwankwo
    Shina Odukoya

    Nwankwo Kanu

    Famous for his on-field qualities as well as his philanthropic work, Papillo set up the Kanu Heart Foundation after his own brush with death due to a heart defect.

    The striker - who is also a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF - has arranged for over a thousand children to travel abroad for live-saving surgery.

  12. Barbra Banda Zambia Women 2021
    Getty

    Barbra Banda

    Zambia’s Olympic superstar runs the Barbra Banda Foundation, a Lusaka-based nongovernmental organisation which aims ‘to help alleviate poverty and promote equality through sport’.

    “Like many, I did not come from a place of abundance hence I understand what it means to need help and no one willing to help you,” the China-based striker said upon the launch of the foundation in February this year.

    “I have also experienced how much easier life gets when you have people ready to help you on your path to success.”

  13. Emmanuel Eboue Arsenal
    Getty Images

    Emmanuel Eboue

    Ex-Arsenal right-back who fought to promote education and education provision in his homeland, in order to invest in Ivory Coast’s future.

    He raised money to build schools, pay education fees for those who couldn’t afford them, and support children with the uniforms and text books required to flourish in the academic context.

  14. South African football legend Lucas Radebe
    Backpagepix

    Lucas Radebe

    A truly quality individual, Radebe demonstrated loyalty during his playing career when he stuck with Leeds United despite interest from elsewhere, and was also acutely aware of his social responsibilities beyond Elland Road.

    He was a Fifa ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages, and was also involved in the Starfish organisation, Reach for a Dream Foundation and acted as the Hospice Palliative Care Association ambassador for South Africa.

  15. Mohamed Aboutrika and Frederic Kanoute
    KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

    Mohamed Aboutrika

    Renowned for his humanitarian work, Aboutrika was named as one of the UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors for a Match Against Poverty in 2005, and famously protested the plight of Palestinians on the Gaza Strip.

    He volunteered to appear in a World Food Programme public service announcement in which he drew attention to the tragic fact that 25,000 people die from hunger every day, 18,000 of them children.

    The Egypt great is also a WFP Ambassador against hunger.            

  16. John Obi Mikel
    Getty

    John Obi Mikel

    Mikel’s charity work has touched many lives in his homeland of Nigeria.

    The former Chelsea midfielder set up a foundation in his name in 2012 'to get people back on their feet, and hopefully raise the aspirations of the affected people'.

    "I grew up in Jos. It wasn't easy for me as a kid, and to watch people going through a tougher situation now is just unbearable,” Mikel told BBC Sport in 2012. “Some people have been very lucky, but some are not, so it will be to get them to do something positive after these setbacks. I intend to make this a lifetime thing if it achieves its purpose.”

    He later set up the Mikel Obi Foundation to unearth talent across the nation.

  17. Salomon Kalou
    Getty Images

    Salomon Kalou

    The former Chelsea forward runs the Foundation Kalou, having launched it with his brother Bonaventure in 2009 with the aim of overseeing various charitable initiatives.

    The foundation was influential in building and overseeing the launch of a kidney dialysis centre in Boakye, Ivory Coast.

  18. Jean Sseninde Uganda and Crystal Palace Ladies, Juan Mata of Manchester United

    Jean Ssendinde

    The Sseninde Foundation is an NGO which aims to support women and girls around the world both in their desire to play football, and to develop ‘non-formal skills that they can use to create [their] own businesses’.

    Sseninde’s Linkedin page states that the Queens Park Rangers defender currently leads a team of over 50 volunteers.

    She also gives back to the sport through her work with Caf and Cecafa.

  19. Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli
    Getty Images

    Kalidou Koulibaly

    Koulibaly marked his 30th birthday by giving two ambulances, as well as numerous stretchers, hospital gowns, personal protective equipment and thousands of protective masks to hospitals in his home nation.

  20. Idrissa Gueye PSG Dijon Ligue 1
    Getty

    Idrissa Gueye

    Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Gueye recently returned to his homeland of Senegal to offer his support to non-profit organisation For Hope Association, providing foot and baby supplies to a local nursery.

    “It was an incredible moment of sharing, rich in emotions,” the 31-year-old wrote on his Instagram handle. “We then went to the villages of Ngelou where we spoke with the inhabitants, with the aim of making several adjustments.

    “We will continue to do everything to make your daily life more enjoyable. Stay tuned.”