Alexander Isak: one of the world’s best young footballers

The most popular sport in Eritrea, by far, is cycling. After that, however, come athletics (specifically long-distance running) and football. In terms of the latter, Eritrea boasts a proud record. After Eritrea was illegally annexed and became a province within Ethiopia, a large contingent of players hailing from Eritrea made major contributions to the Ethiopian team that emerged victorious in the 1962 African Cup of Nations.

More recently, following its independence, the country established a competitive local championship featuring players and clubs from across the nation. As well, like much of the rest of the African continent, Eritreans remain avid fans. They loyally follow the prominent European leagues, especially the English Premier League, and keep close tabs on the world’s best players. During the weekends, when the top leagues in Europe are in action, cafés, bars, and theaters up and down the country are invariably packed with throngs of fans, comprising all age groups and different backgrounds, passionately cheering on their favorite clubs and players.

In recent years, perhaps the loudest football-related cheers in the country have been reserved for a rapidly rising star in Europe with Eritrean heritage – Alexander Isak. Born in Solna, a suburb outside of Stockholm, to Eritrean parents, Alexander currently plays as a striker for Newcastle United in the English Premier League. He joined the club, one of England’s most prominent, from Real Sociedad, who play in Spain’s top division, for a club-record fee of £63million in August 2022. Previously, he had played briefly in Germany (Borussia Dortmund) and the Netherlands (Willem II), while he first emerged as a promising talent in Sweden, playing for the club AIK. So good were his performances there – he broke several records – that he was heralded as the “new Zlatan Ibrahimovic” – regarded as one of Sweden’s greatest players and considered among the top strikers in Europe.

This season, and especially in the past several weeks, Alexander has been one of the hottest strikers in the English league. He even has an outside chance to end up with the league’s Golden Boot award (given to the player who finishes the season with the most goals). Not long ago, an article published by Forbes, proclaimed that Alexander “has the talent to become one of the world’s best.” Similarly, following a masterclass performance earlier this year against Tottenham, one of England’s top clubs, The Guardian, a leading English newspaper, declared that Alexander had “rounded into one of the most clinical finishers in Europe” and went on to describe him as “the prototypical modern striker, capable of linking up play when a defensive line sits in deep or happy to sprint into space when playing on the break. And then when he has an opportunity, he’s lethal in front of goal.”

Alexander’s all-around excellent play this season, alongside his strong mentality and still considerable untapped potential, has meant that a number of major clubs across the country and Europe have shown an interest in acquiring him for next season. If he does leave Newcastle, his transfer would undoubtedly command a huge fee.

Even as Alexander’s performances and stature in the game have continued to soar, he has never forgotten his roots. Throughout his time in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and England, Isak has maintained a close connection with his Eritrean heritage and he remains proud of his background and culture. He often takes time to sign autographs and take pictures with his many Eritrean fans, especially the young, while in 2018 he visited Eritrea and met with Zemede Tekle, Eritrea’s Minister of Culture and Sport. During his trip, Alexander observed grassroot projects in Asmara, took in local matches, encouraged aspiring footballers, and shared his story with young boys and girls. Everyone who had the opportunity to engage with him was left impressed.


With his seemingly limitless talent, strong work ethic, and deep desire to improve, the sky really is the limit for Alexander. His fans, across Europe, around the world, and especially in Eritrea, will continue to cheer him on and hope to push him to reach new heights.

Written by Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion

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