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Black History Month: Éduoard becomes The Best

Mendy made history, then didn’t stop there.

FBL-AFR-AFCON-2021-2022-SEN-EGY Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Éduoard becomes The Best

In 2021, the sports world was starting to fully re-open after the Covid pandemic shut everything down for most of 2020. Fans were starting to return to stadiums in bigger numbers, and the action on the field continued to increase. What most people didn’t know is that 2021 was set to be Éduoard Mendy’s year.

In his first year with Chelsea FC, Mendy had supplanted Kepa Arrizabalaga as the starting goalkeeper on a team that was attempting to compete for the Champions League title as well as the Premier League title. However, the calendar year of 2021 started out rocky, with Chelsea losing a few games and their coach Frank Lampard being fired. The next day, Thomas Tuchel was hired, and a switch turned on for Mendy and Chelsea, at least in Champions League.

Mendy also went on a tear, rattling off 6 clean sheets in a row as Chelsea tried to fight back up the standings in the Premier League and continued to advance in the Champions League. After shutting out Real Madrid in the 2nd leg of the Champions League semifinal, Chelsea advanced to the Champions League final against Premier League rivals Manchester City. There, Mendy did what he does best: with yet another clean sheet as Chelsea lifted its second Champions League trophy.

He didn’t stop there as the 2021-22 season began, continuing to dominate for Chelsea between the posts as the full-time starter and for Senegal as they prepared for the postponed Africa Cup of Nations. He had 29 clean sheets across all competitions for club and country in 2021. For his efforts in 2021, Éduoard Mendy was named The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper at their ceremony on January 17, 2022. He became the first African goalkeeper to win the prestigious award.

One would forgive Mendy for celebrating his historic accomplishment. But, when he received word that he had won FIFA’s The Best award, he was in the middle of the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, a team that was a favorite to win the tournament. The next morning, he did what few would do: held another clean sheet as Senegal drew Malawi. A little over 2 weeks later, Mendy and Senegal competed in the Africa Cup of Nations final against Egypt. Mendy kept Senegal in it by holding Egypt scoreless through 120 minutes of action. With the match scoreless heading to penalties to decide it, Mendy stopped 2 of them to help Senegal clinch its 1st AFCON title. Mendy was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper for having 4 clean sheets during Senegal’s run to the title.

Did he stop there? Nope. He immediately flew to Abu Dhabi, where his Chelsea squad was competing in the FIFA Club World Cup. He arrived in time to see his team win the semifinal to advance to the final against Palmeiras. 3 days later, he was back in goal, helping Chelsea lift the Club World Cup trophy after a 2-1 extra time win.

Three weeks, 4 major trophies. Éduoard Mendy was on top of the world, and continues to be one of the world’s great goalkeepers. But, he’s the first from Africa to have a simple title:

The Best.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing stories throughout the month to highlight some of the biggest moments in Black American and world soccer history.