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Larbi Benbarek

Larbi Benbarek was born in 1917 in Casablanca 🇲🇦 while it was under French Colonial Rule, and he is “known” as the first star African player in Europe and at the top-flight of La Liga.

After starting his career playing for Moroccan clubs, Larbi signed for Marseille in 1938. He scored twice in his league debut and went on to play for the French national team that same year. (FYI, this was ten years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in the U.S.)

He returned to Morocco and rejoined US Marocaine and helped them win four league titles and another North African Cup 🏆

In 1948, Atletico Madrid signed Larbi from Marseille in a record-breaking deal. He played at Atlético for five years, winning two league titles, earning the nickname the "The Foot of God,” and scoring 56 goals in 113 appearances.

News flash - Larbi faced severe racism throughout his career, and although beloved by many fans for his play on the pitch, he was never truly accepted by the media and fans while playing in Europe.

His legacy has been widely overlooked by the media and the football institutions, as his story carries with it the racist and colonial legacy.

Furthermore, articles about him have focused solely on defining his legacy as the first African star to play in Europe, reinforcing the misconception in football that European accolades can only achieve prominence.

The part of his story they still leave out to this day - is that after being born under colonial rule - a year after Morocco regained their independence from France and Spain (the two countries he played in), Larbi Barek became the first-ever manager for the Moroccan National team in 1957 👊🏿

Larbi Barek shouldn't just be celebrated for his success in Europe, but his commitment to Morocco, the league titles he won as a player at home and abroad, and for paving the way for Moroccan managers.

As Morocco takes the pitch against France in the 2022 World Cup, remember that their legacy runs deeper than you may know, and their place in football history is by no means limited to the result of this match 🇲🇦

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