History was made on Thursday, 5 January 2017 at the International Conference Centre in Abuja with the coronation of Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez as African Player of the Year 2016 and Ugandan goalie, Denis Onyango as African Player of the Year – Based in Africa 2016.
Mahrez, 25, becomes the first Algerian and the maiden North African to win the prestigious individual honour in African football since its inception by the Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) in 1992.
The playmaker, who played an influential role in the historic Premier League title triumph by English club, Leicester City, last season and Algeria’s qualification to the Total Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017, polled 361 votes to emerge winner in the polls.
He thus dethroned last year’s winner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon who garnered 313 votes, whilst Senegalese forward, Sadio Mane placed a distant third with 186 votes.
The winner was 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.
For the African Player of the Year – Based in Africa, Onyango also wrote his name in African football folklore, by becoming the first goalkeeper to scoop the award designed to reward players who ply their trade on the continent.
The 31-year old, whose 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 tallied 252 votes, 24 more than his club-mate, Khama Billiat of Zimbabwe. Zambian Rainford Kalaba finished third with 206 votes.
Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala was named Women’s Player of the Year, ahead of Cameroonian Gabrielle Aboudi-Onguene and Ghana’s Elizabeth Addo. It was her second glory after 2014 in Lagos. It was double delight for her as the Super Falcons were adjudged Women’s National Team of the Year following their record extending eighth title at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon in December 2016.
There was more to come for Nigeria with striking duo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi picking up the Most Promising Talent and Youth Player of the Year awards respectively.
Two more awards came the way of Sundowns, in Club of the Year and Head Coach, Pitso Mosimane, going away with the Coach of the Year.
The Cranes historic qualification for the Total Africa Cup of Nations did not go unnoticed and were deservedly reward with the National Team of the Year gong.
Gambian Knight of the whistle, Bakary Papa Gassama also made his own piece of history after being decorated Referee of the Year for the third time in a row.
Following Guinea Bissau’s qualification to the Total Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017, their first for a major continental championship, Manuel Lopes Nascimento, President of Guinea Bissau Football Federation was named Football Leader of the Year.
Ivorian goal machine, Laurent Pokou, who passed away last November, was posthumously inducted as an “African Legend” together with Cameroonian Emilienne Mbango, one of the pioneers of women football on the continent. At a time when women’s football was non-existent, Mbango played with the legendary Roger Milla during his days with Leopards Douala in the seventies.
The well-attended ceremony, marking the Silver Jubilee of the inception of the CAF Awards was spiced by musical performances from renowned artistes such as Afro beat musician Femi Kuti, Flavour, Yemi Alade and Omawumi, all from Nigeria; South African group, Muffinz and Diamond Platinumz from Tanzania.