By Khalifa Hemed
Published January 6, 2017
An Algerian footballer has been named African Player of the Year 2016, becoming the first North African to win the award set up by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 1992 to honour individuals who excell in the world’s most popular sport.
Riyad Mahrez, who won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award in December 2016, was crowned at a ceremony held on January 5. 2017 at the International Conference Centre in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Twenty-five-year-old Mahrez’s “influential role in the historic Premier League title triumph by English club, Leicester City” and and “Algeria’s qualification to the Total Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017” were cited as being some of the reasons that enabled him to win both the BBC and the CAF awards. While the former is determined by public voting, the latter is “decided by votes from the Head Coaches or Technical Directors of the National Associations affiliated to CAF, members of the CAF Media Committee, members of the CAF Technical and Development Committee and a 20-member panel of experts,” according to CAF.
The England-based footballer garnered 361 votes, beating the previous year’s winner–Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon who collected 313 votes and Sadio Mane of Senegal who polled 186–to second and third places, respectively.
Winning the almost nonsensical ‘African Player of the Year – Based in Africa’ award in 2016 was Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango. Hey, what could be the justification of awarding a footballer just because he or she is based in Africa? Does it mean CAF is about to launch awards for African players based in North America, Oceania, South America, Europe or Asia?
In awarding 31-year old Onyango, CAF explained that the East African goalkeeper’s “exploits in the posts was critical to Uganda’s qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time after a 39-year hiatus, and also starred in Mamelodi Sundowns’ conquest of Africa last year.”
Onyango’s 252 votes pushed him ahead of Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat (228 votes) and Zambia’s Rainford Kalaba (206 votes) who finished in second and third positions for the ‘affirmative action’ prize.
Beating Cameroon’s Gabrielle Aboudi-Onguene and Ghana’s Elizabeth Addo to the CAF Women’s Player of the Year award that she won in 2014 was Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala. Oshoala’s national team, Super Falcons, was declared Women’s National Team of the Year, having won eight out of 10 African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) titles.
Here is the full list of CAF 2016 winners:
I. African Player of the Year
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Leicester City)
II. African Player of the Year – Based in Africa
Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns)
III. Women’s player of the Year
Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria & Arsenal Ladies)
IV. Most Promising Talent
Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria & Manchester City)
V. Youth Player of the Year
Alex Iwobi (Nigeria and Arsenal)
VI. Coach of the Year
Pitso Mosimane (Mamelodi Sundowns)
VII. Club of the Year
VIII. National Team of the Year
IX. Women’s National Team of the Year
X. Referee of the Year
Bakary Papa Gassama (The Gambia)
XI. Football Leader of the Year
Manuel Lopes Nascimento, President of Guinea Bissau Football Federation
XII. Legend Award
Laurent Pokou, Former player of Cote d’Ivoire
Emilienne Mbango, Former player of Cameroon
XIII. Platinum Award
Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
XIV. Africa Finest XI
a). Goalkeeper: Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns)
b). Defenders: Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast and Paris Saint-Germain), Aymen Abdennour (Tunisia and Valencia), Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast and Manchester United), Joyce Lomalisa (Congo-Kinshasa and AS Vita)
c). Midfielders: Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe and Mamelodi Sundowns), Rainford Kalaba (Zambia and TP Mazembe), Keegan Dolly (South Africa and Mamelodi Sundowns),
d). Forwards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon and Borussia Dortmund), Sadio Mane (Senegal and Liverpool), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria and Leicester City)
e). Substitutes: Aymen Mathlouthi (Tunisia and Etoile du Sahel), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal and Napoli), Salif Coulibalu (Mali and TP Mazembe), Islam Slimani (Algeria and Leicester City), Mohamed Salah (Egypt and Roma), Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria and Manchester City), Alex Iwobi (Nigeria and Arsenal).