BY PAUL EREWUBA
The 25th edition of the annual CAF Awards Gala will take place for the second time running in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Today, the King of African football would be crowned at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, amongst the trio of last year’s winner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon, Riyad Mahrez of Algeria and Senegalese Sadio Mane.
From 1992 to 2015, from Ghana’s Abedi Pele to Gabonese Aubameyang, 15 players had laid claim to the most prestigious individual honour in African football.
Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o was the first to be crowned on four occasions – 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010; a record since equalled by Toure, who made it four on the trot (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014). Former Senegal forward, El Hadji Diouf won the award twice in a row; 2001 and 2002.
However, the first player to have been named CAF African Player of the Year on two occasions is ex-Nigeria captain, Nwankwo Kanu, in 1996 and 1999 before Ivorian Didier Drogba replicated the feat in 2006 and 2009.
Winners of the prestigious honour had come from either the midfield or attack; and that tradition will be respected yet again this time, with the three contenders being attackers.
In addition, the 15 players to have been decorated since 1992, had and continued to remain amongst the foremost African ambassadors of the world’s most popular sport.
There are also several others who were so near and yet so far, including Ivorian goalkeeper Alain Gouamene in 1992; Moroccan defender Noureddine Naybet (sixth in 1993); Nigerian Daniel Amokachi, who regularly featured among the top ten (10) whilst Chadian Japhet N’Doram was virtually handicapped by the non-presence of his national team at the final phase of a major continental championship.
South African defender, Mark Fish also settled for sixth position in 1996. Ghanaian defender Samuel Kuffour narrowly missed out on two occasions, 1999 and 2001.
Others are Michael Essien of Ghana, who made the final three an unprecedented five times in a row – 2005 (third), 2006 (third), 2007 (second), 2008 (third) and 2009 (third); Asamoah Gyan, also from Ghana, 2010 (second); Andre Ayew (Ghana), 2011 (third) & 2015 (third) and Malian Seydou Keita, 2011 (second). So are Nigerian duo, John Obi Mikel and Vincent Enyeama, who finished second and third in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
When the roll call for the laureates is launched, there is one noticeable observation. Cote d’Ivoire is the country which has the biggest number of triumphs, six in total, Toure (four) and Drogba (two); followed by Nigeria on five titles, two for Kanu, one each for Emmanuel Amuneke, Rashidi Yekini and Victor Ikpeba.
Patrick Mboma won it once coupled with Eto’o’s four also gives Cameroon five titles. Diouf is responsible for the only two titles in the name of Senegal. One-time winners include Ghana – Abedi Pele, Liberia – George Weah (the only African player to have been crowned FIFA World Footballer of the Year), Morocco – Mustapha Hadji, Mali – Frederic Kanoute and Togo – Emmanuel Adebayor and Aubameyang on the ticket of Gabon.