Wednesday, September 16, 2009

16 September 1992 - The Original Black Pearl

On 16 September 1992, Moroccan-born French international midfielder Larbi Benbarek died in his home in Casablanca at the age of 75.

Nicknamed "the Black Pearl," Benbarek has been hailed as the first African football star. He was born in Casablanca in 1914 and played professionally for his hometown clubs Idéal Club Casablanca (1930-34) and US Marocaine (1934-38) before moving to France to sign with Marseille at the age of 20. He stayed with Marseille until 1939, scoring 10 goals in 30 league appearances, before the onset of World War II forced him back to Morocco. Before he left, he had made four appearances for the French national team.

He stayed with Marocaine for the duration of the war, but moved back to Europe when the war ended to play for Stade de Français (1945-48), Atlético Madrid (1948-53) and again with Marseille (1953-55). He also resumed his career with the French national team, making a total of 17 appearances between 1938 and 1954.

In 1955, he again returned to Morocco, where he played for Sidi-Ben-Abbes for a season. He retired from playing in 1956. He briefly managed to Moroccan national side in 1957, and again in 1960, before retiring from football completely.

Soccer legend Pelé reportedly once said about Ben Barek: "If I am the king of soccer, then Larbi Benbarek is the god of it." In 1998, FIFA posthumously awarded him its highest honor, the FIFA Order of Merit.

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