• Beats Salah, Mahrez to Award
  • Oshoala rules Africa again

BY VICTOR OSOWOCHI – Quite expectedly, Senegalese and Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane has won the CAF African Player of the Year Award for 2019.

He held off stiff competition from his Liverpool team-mate and last year’s winner, Mohammed Salah of Egypt and Algeria’s winger, Riyad Mahrez to cart home the title.

The ceremony held at the Albatros Citadel Sahl Hasheesh Resort in Hurghada, Egypt on Tuesday, January 7, saw the impressive Mane winning the continental prize for first time in his career.

Aside leading the Teranga Lions to a second place finish at AFCON 2019 in Egypt, Mane was undoubtedly a stand-out player as the Reds destroyed all oppositions on their way to capturing the 2018-19 Champions League crown.

The Senegal international is already enjoying a strong start to the 2019-20 Premier League campaign with Liverpool.

In each of the last three seasons, Mane had always been in the top three bracket, finishing runner-up to Salah in 2017 and 2018, and third in 2016, when Manchester City’s Mahrez won the title.

With this latest development, the 27-year-old striker has continued in his stride to establish himself among the world’s top players in the round leather game.

Upon receiving the well-deserved accolade on Tuesday night, Mane said; “I am very happy and so proud to win the award this year.”

According to him, “I love football and anything related to it, I am glad to be here with all of you. I dedicate this award to my family, my team-mates in Liverpool, my manager Jurgen Klopp and all of the Egyptians.

“It is a great day for me and for my career. I would like to thank all of the Senegalese who supported me during my journey. I am feeling happy because they will be glad watching me winning this award, especially the people in my village whom I promised I would win Player of the Year. I would like to thank them in French to best express my feelings.

“I cannot describe my feelings after winning this award and these emotions which surround me in Egypt. Thank you, everyone.”

Mane was the co-winner of the 2018-19 Premier League Golden Boot after scoring 22 goals, sharing the award with his fellow African stars Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Liverpool won the Champions League last year and came close in the Premier League title as well, falling one point short as Manchester City won the English top tier for a second straight campaign.

But Mane’s side appear well positioned to end a 30-year English title drought this season, having opened up a 13-point lead atop the table in 2019-20 campaign.

Again, Mane is playing a starring role, having scored 11 league goals while adding another two strikes in the Champions League with the Jurgen Klopp’s men advancing to the last 16 stage, where they will face Spanish side, Atletico Madrid.

Mane was also listed as part of a star-studded CAF best XI, which include Andre Onana, Serge Aurier, Joel Matip, Kalidou Koulibaly, Achraf Hakimi, Idrissa Gueye, Mahrez, Hakim Ziyech, Salah and Aubameyang.

In other award categories, Borussia Dortmund full-back, Achraf Hakimi was named the African Youth Player of the Year as he continues to impress for club and his country, Morocco. In winning the award, Hakimi defeated Nigeria’s duo of Samuel Chukwueze, who plies his trade for Spain’s Villarreal and Victor Osimhen of French side, Lille FC.

Nigeria and Barcelona star, Asisat Oshoala claimed the prize as CAF African Women’s Player of the Year. The Super Falcon’s Captain dusted South Africa’s Thembi Ngatlana and Cameroon’s Ajara Nchout to win her fourth title, equalling the previous record held by compatriot, Perpetua Nkwocha.

Similarly, Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi was named the Men’s Coach of the Year, while South Africa’s Desiree Ellis won the prize on the women’s side.

Algeria emerged as the Men’s National Team of the Year after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019, while Cameroon was named the Women’s National Team of the Year after becoming one of just two African teams, along with Nigeria, to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament held in France.

Riyad Mahrez’s last minute freekick in Algeria’s AFCON semi-final 2-1 victory over Nigeria’s Super Eagles was voted Best African Goal of the Year.

Algeria’s Youcef Belaïli, who now plays for Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia, was voted African Inter-clubs’ Player of the Year after a brilliant year with Tunisian side, Esperance Sportive de Tunis who won the 2019 CAF Champions League.- With agency reports

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