Sixteen African professionals are still in the race for this year’s Uefa Champions League title, with Mali’s Seydou Keita standing as reigning champion in the name of Barcelona.
After the draw for the quarterfinals which pitted APOEL against Real Madrid, AC Milan v Barcelona, Olympique Marseille-Bayern Munich and Benfica-Chelsea, the presence of a number of African players in the forthcoming hostilities became evident, except in the game opposing the Spanish La Liga leaders Real Madrid to surprise package APOEL FC of Cyprus.
France 2010 champions Marseille carry the highest number of African expatriates in the quarterfinal stage, with seven players set to power the Les Phoceens to the highest possible length.
The only North African representative is Algeria international defender Djamel Mesbah, who plays for Serie A giants AC Milan, which will likely field their other three African players Kevin Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari and Rodney Strasser.
Like AC Milan, English Premier League side Chelsea boast of four Africans, led by the team’s talisman Didier Drogba, who helped the Blues to overturn their deficit against Napoli in the round of 16 return leg to scramble a ticket to the quarterfinals.
The African players in the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals:
Olympique Marseille-Bayern Munich
(Olympique Marseille, France): Nicolas Nkoulou (Cameroun, defender), Souleymane Diawara (Senegal, defender), Djimi Traoré (Mali, defender), Charles Kaboré (Burkina Faso, midfielder), Stéphane Mbia (Cameroun, midfielder), André Ayew (Ghana, midfielder), Jordan Ayew (Ghana, striker).
(Chelsea, England): Michael Essien (Ghana, midfielder), John Obi Mikel (Nigeria, midfielder), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast, striker), Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast, striker).
(AC Milan, Italy): Djamel Mesbah (Algeria, defender), Kevin Prince Boateng (Ghana, midfielder), Sulley Muntari (Ghana, midfielder), Rodney Strasser (Sierra Leone, midfielder). (Barcelona, Spain): Seydou Keita (Mali, midfielder)
The big Greek derby between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos Pireaus was abandoned after being interrupted twice by crowd violence on Sunday.
Three fire trucks were called in to extinguish flames as unruly Panathinaikos fans set several sections of the stands on fire.
The start of the second half was delayed by 45 minutes as fans fought running battles with police and was subsequently abandoned altogether with nine minutes remaining with Olympiakos 1-0 ahead through Djamel Abdoun’s 51st-minute goal.
Several petrol bombs exploded close to the pitch, prompting referee Anastasio Kakos to end the match prematurely and pull the players off the field.