KAMPALA- It took Samuel Eto’o six consecutive tournaments to gather 18 goals and become Africa Cup of Nations’ all-time top scorer. But it took Pierre Ndaye Mulamba just five matches to score a phenomenal nine goals in Egypt 1974, to become the highest scorer in a single Afcon tournament, a record that has survived 45 years.
Terrific form in a couple of games can win you the Golden Boot in a tournament. In the inaugural tournament, in Sudan 1957, where only two matches were played, Egypt’s El-Diba scored five. In 1963, his countryman Hassan El-Shazly scored six in three, including a record four goals against Nigeria.
In 1968, Ivorian Laurent Pokou equaled El-Shazly’s record of six goals. In 1970 El-Shazly’s Egypt beat Ivory Coast in the third-place playoff but Pokou topped the chart with a record eight goals.
It survived only four years. But when DR Congo’s Mulamba broke it in 1974, no one would bet that his record of nine would last nearly half a century.
However, editions and years have passed [including 2019]. Likewise great goal scorers, and Mulamba, who passed on January, is resting in peace. After all, no one is threatening his record, like the shooters who threatened his life.
In the 1998 edition in Burkina Faso, Egyptian legend Hossam Hassan and South Africa’s Benni McCarthy came closest to Mulamba’s record with seven goals apiece.
Cameroon’s Eto’o bagged the boot in 2006 and 2008, with five goals in each edition, the same tally posted by Nigeria’s Rashidi Yekini in ‘94, Zambia’s Kalusha Bwalya in 96, South Africa’s Shaun Bartlett in 2000 and Egypt’s Gedo 2010.
In Tunisia 2004, Cameroon’s Patrick Mboma, Mali’s Frédéric Kanouté and three others shared the boot on four goals apiece, just like Guinea’s N’Jo Léa in 1976, Ghana’s George Alhassan 1982, Egypt’s Taher Abouzaid in ‘84, Cameroon’s Roger Milla in ‘86, Algeria’s Djamel Menad in 1990, Yekini in ‘92, Nigeria’s Emmanuel Emenike and Ghana’s Wakaso Mubarak 2013.
Morocco 1988 witnessed the meanest scorers when Milla shared the boot with three others on a miserly two goals apiece.
In 1978 Uganda’s Phillip Omondi, Ghana’s Opoku Afriyie, Nigeria’s Segun Odegbami scored three each. And stats from most editions show that top scorers do not go beyond three goals.
Mulamba needed five matches to score nine. His record looked under threat especially that fine goal scorers like Senegal’s Sadio Mane, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, and Mulamba’s countryman Cedric Bakambu, if you like, had chances to play seven games in a 24-team tournament.
But stats show otherwise. So far. Salah could already have switched his mind to preseason mode after Egypt’s abysmal show, with just two goals to his name; just like Bakambu, who could not add to his three after DR Congo lost penalties to debutants Madagascar.
Mane, who shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Liverpool teammate Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, on 22 goals apiece, is one of the few big names surviving a tournament of surprises.
He was instrumental in Senegal’s 1-0 quarterfinal win against Benin, but VAR denied him two [marginally offside] goals. Even if the Teranga Lions are tipped to reach the final, Mane will need a miracle to score six in two matches to match Mulamba.
Likewise Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo, and others contending for the Golden Boot.
Mulamba’s record of nine goals was made in Egypt, it looks still safe in Egypt.