Drogba, New King Of African Football
 

Amin George Forji

 

Didier Drogba- the Ivorian and Chelsea prolific striker was on Thursday March 1st  named by the African Football Governing Body, CAF, as it’s 2006 player of the year, following a ballot of Africa’s 53 national team coaches in the Ghanaian capital of Accra. In what turned out to be a very close race, Drogba, who is 28 ousted his closest rival, Cameroonian and Barcelona striker, Samuel Eto’o (25) by 79 votes against 74. The other contender for this year’s award, Ghanaian born Michael Essien, who is in fact Drogba’s team-mate at Chelsea came third with 36 votes. Ghana was hosting the annual event for the very first time.

The three finalist have during the past three years become household names not in Africa, but also in Europe, where they play one of the finest football during this decade, in two of Europe’s leading clubs.

Didier Drogba has during his tenure of the Ivorian team captain brought more glory to his country than any other captain in the team’s history. He decisively captained his side to a maiden world cup place in Germany, ousting favourite, Cameroon. During the last African Nation’s cup in Egypt in 2006, he led his team to the finals, where they lost to host, Egypt on penalties. He was one of the major force that helped Chelsea win the English Premiership last year. He already has a tally of 28 goals this year in the English season, making him the highest scorer in the league, ranked the most competitive in the world.

“It is a great honour to be recognised,” Drogba was quoted by the BBC as saying following the award.. “I feel an indescribable joy and it’s also a reward for all the sacrifices I have made in the past.”

Eto’o who has won the three past awards was hoping for record quadruple feat. Apart from Eto’o, the only other player to have claimed a hat-trick in the award is Abedi Pele of Ghana in the 90s. Although Cameroon was eliminated at the quarter finals of the last African Nation’s cup, nonetheless, Eto’o five goals made him the top scorer of the tournament. He helped Barcelona last year to win both La Liga and the Champions league. He won the Spanish pichichi award with his 26 goals. Nevertheless, he has suffered from misfortune this season, having been kept on the sidelines for five months following injuries he sustained since September.

Although he inspired his team to the second round of the world cup, Essien had been widely predicted by the press even before the ballot to come on third place. So, the eventual outcome was of little surprise. The player is nonetheless one of Chelsea’s backbone at the defence.

Awarded since 1970, the prize was formerly organised by the French sports Magazine, ‘France Football’, until 1994, when CAF took over, instituting a new formula.

Apart from the African footballer of the year prize, CAF equally named the following:

-Young African footballer of 2006: Taye Taiwo (Nigeria)
-National team of the year: Egypt
-Coach of the year: Manuel Jose (Egypt’s Al Ahli)
-Inter-club team of the year: Egypt’s Al Ahli
-Inter-club player of the year: Mohamed Aboutrika – Ahly (Egypt); and
-Female player of the year:   Cynthia Uwak (Nigeria)
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Past winners:
1970: Salif Keita (St Etienne, France and Mali)
1971: Ibrahim Sunday (Asante Kotoko and Ghana)
1972: Cherif Souleymane (Hafia and Guinea)
1973: Tshimen Bwanga (TP Mazembe Englebert and Zaire)
1974: Paul Moukila (CARA Brazzaville and Congo)
1975: Ahmed Faras (Mohammedia and Morocco)
1976: Roger Milla (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1977: Tarak Dhiab (Esperance and Tunisia)
1978: Karim Abdoul Razak (Asante Kotoko and Ghana)
1979: Thomas Nkono (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1980: Jean Manga Onguene (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1981: Lakhdar Belloumi (GCR Mascara and Algeria)
1982: Thomas Nkono (Espanyol, Spain and Cameroon)
1983: Mahmoud Al Khatib (Al Ahli and Egypt)
1984: Theophile Abega (Toulouse, France and Cameroon)
1985: Mohamed Timoumi (Royal Armed Forces and Morocco)
1986: Badou Ezaki (Real Mallorca, Spain and Morocco)
1987: Rabah Madjer (FC Porto, Portugal and Algeria)
1988: Kalusha Bwalya (Cercle Bruges, Belgium and Zambia)
1989: George Weah (Monaco, France and Liberia)
1990: Roger Milla (St Denis, Reunion and Cameroon)
1991: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France and Ghana)
1992: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France and Ghana)
1993: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Lyonnaise, France and Ghana)
1994: George Weah (Paris St Germain, France and Liberia) and Emmanuel Amunike (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal and Nigeria)
1995: George Weah (AC Milan, Italy and Liberia) 1996: Nwankwo Kanu (Inter Milan, Italy and Nigeria)
1997: Victor Ikpeba (Monaco, France and Nigeria)
1998: Mustapha Hadji (Deportivo Coruna, Spain and Morocco)
1999: Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal, England and Nigeria)
2000: Patrick Mboma (Parma, Italy and Cameroon)
2001: El Hadji Diouf (Rennes, France and Senegal)
2002: El Hadji Diouf (Liverpool, England and Senegal)
2003: Samuel Eto’o (Real Mallorca, Spain and Cameroon)
2004: Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona, Spain and Cameroon)
2005: Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona, Spain and Cameroon)

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