The Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) Awards is a yearly ritual instituted to honour footballers and officials who have excelled in various departments of the game as well as making meaningful contribution to its development in the continent. The 2018 CAF Awards gala ceremony would be held on 8th January in Dakar, Senegal.
Reigning winner, Mohamed Salah and his Liverpool club-mate Sadio Mane alongside 2015 winner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, are the top three for the most prestigious individual accolade in African football. A repeat of last year, the three players will be hoping to begin the year with the crown of Player of the Year for their exploits in 2018.
Liverpool goal machine Salah became the first Egyptian to be decorated Player of the Year since the inception of the awards in 1992. It is the second time, he has made the final three and Salah has his eyes set on joining the elite league of players to win the honour back-to-back. Senegalese El Hadji Diouf (2001, 2002), Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon (2003, 2004) and Toure (2011, 2012) are the only three to win successive titles. Gabonese striker Aubameyang is becoming a mainstay amongst the top three finalists since 2014. He has made the final shortlist five times in a row and equaling the record of Ivorian legend Yaya Toure and Ghanaian midfield powerhouse Michael Essien. Four-time Player of the Year, Toure, achieved the feat (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and Essien (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). The 29-year old will be hoping to lay his hands on the enviable crown a second time. For Sadio Mane, It is a hat-trick in the top three, coming third in 2016 and second in 2017. Will he be third time lucky and become the second Senegalese to win the topmost individual honour after El Hadji Diouf?
The women’s shortlist has Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala and Francisca Ordega, and South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana making the final three. Oshoala has won three CAF awards. She and Ordega helped the Super Falcons retain the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2018. Kgatlana was the Most Valuable Player and top-scorer at the Nations Cup as Banyana Banyana narrowly lost out to Nigeria on penalties in the final.
Asisat is the current crown holder, winning the last two and three altogether (2014, 2016, 2017) as she sights on a fourth title, to equal the feat of compatriot Perpetua Nkwocha (2004, 2005, 2010, 2011). The 24-year old helped Nigeria to successively defend their title during the Total Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Ghana last December. Francisca Ordega earned herself a huge reputation following her excellent performances at the last AWCON and in the United States where plies her trade with Washington Spirit. The 25-year old wowed fans with her pacy runs from the wings as Nigeria successfully defended their title. South African forward Kgatlana was the star of the last AWCON, winning the Most Valuable Player and Top scorer accolades as Banyana Banyana reached the final. Her second nomination at this level and hoping to become the second South African after Noko Matlou (2008) to be crowned ‘Queen’ of African football.
Awards have been generating controversies a lot lately due to different opinion on perceived or eventually winner. That said, it is important to acknowledge the finalist and appreciate their achievements during the calendar year in the beautiful and also to praise the panelist saddled with the responsibility of picking the winners. We might disagree on whom we feel should win but I would rather choose to celebrate our African stars as they continue to blaze the trail.
Congratulations to all the nominees and eventual winners!