Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka (L) scores against FC Copenhagen during their Champions League soccer match at Parken stadium in Copenhagen February 22, 2011.
Olympique Lyon’s Cris (L) and Anthony Reveillere (R) challenge Karim Benzema of Real Madrid during their Champions League soccer match at Gerland stadium in Lyon February 22, 2011.
It has been a banner round for Muslim footballers competing in the UEFA Champions League this week. For English champions Chelsea, it was old reliable Frenchman Nicolas Anelka that took the team on his back. Despite all of the hype surrounding newly-acquired Spaniard Fernando Torres, it was the grizzled veteran Anelka who put in a smashing two goal performance to power a 2-0 road win over FC Copenhagen in the first of their home-and-home series. With a victory on the road, and two away goals as a part of it, victory in this round-of-16 matchup is virtually assured for Chelsea. Thanks, again, to brother Nicolas. Across the continent, in Lyon, France, a French footballer had a homecoming. And what a homecoming it was for Real Madridâ€™s Karim Benzema as he provided an away goal, Realâ€™s only goal for the match, as part of a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League tie with Olympique Lyonnaise. It was bittersweet for Benzema, who formerly played for Lyon, and he in fact chose not to overly celebrate after the goal out of respect for the French people. But it continued his hot scoring streak that has him finally showing the potential that originally prompted Real Madrid to spend big money to acquire him.
The previous week Arsenalâ€™s Robin van Persie, whoâ€™s wife is Muslim, led a roster full of Muslim footballers to a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League matchup. And later this week, French muslim Franck Ribery will lead Bayern Munchen against Inter Milan in their Champions League clash.