Each year the best soccer players on the African continent are nominated for the CAF African Player of the Year award.
Once these nominees are selected, a voting process commences to determine the African Player of the Year. The award for 2016 is set to be decided at a gala event in Abuja on Thursday, January 5.
The three nominees have been decided, and it is a tight race to see which of the three African superstars will be crowned the continent’s best for the year.
With the announcement for the 2016 winner taking place soon, we take a look 12 things you should know about the African Player of the Year Award.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) chose Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund, Leicester City’s Algerian Riyad Mahrez and Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane as the three nominees for 2016. One of those three star players will be crowned Africa’s best player for the year.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the current African Player of the Year, having won the award for 2015. The Gabon striker managed to secure the accolade at the expense of four-time African Player of the Year winner Yaya Toure and Ghanaian Andre Ayew.
A goalkeeper has never won the award, with strikers and attacking midfielders often taking the ultimate prize, but in 2014 Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama came close, placing third in the final votes for the award that year.
Toure is a familiar name on this list, and has been honoured as the African Player of the Year for four years in a row. The Manchester City midfielder is one of the best talents to emerge from Africa in the last decade, and continues to be a symbol for African success on the world sporting stage.
Before Yaya Toure dominated the football scene from an African perspective, Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o was the original record-breaker with regards to the African Player of the Year award. He was the most decorated African player after he won the award on four occasions, in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010.
The award from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) concerning the best African player was initiated in 1992. Before the current award was launched by the African confederation, France Football magazine was responsible for awarding the African Footballer of the Year Golden Ball award between 1970 and 1994.
An earlier African Footballer of the Year Golden Ball award was presented to players between 1970 and 1994 by France Football magazine. The CAF sponsored awards overlapped for two years before France Football introduced the European Ballon d’Or in 1995, which was open to all players in the European leagues.
The 2007 award was given to Sevilla FC’s Frédéric Kanouté after experiencing an outstanding season for club and country. The Mali international being named African Footballer of the Year meant that Kanouté was the first European-born player to win the award. Born in France, the striker represented his father’s native Mali on the international stage.
Of the three final nominees for 2016, two of them were born in France. Aubameyang was born in Laval, while Mahrez’s place of birth is Sarcelles, also in France. This means that unless Mane wins the award, the winner will have been born in Europe.
In 1992, the first award handed out by CAF went to Ghanaian football legend, Abedi Pele. The father of current Ghana star Andre Ayew will forever hold the distinction of being the first recipient of the CAF African Player of the Year award in 1992.
Selected media personalities are engaged at first to determine nominees, which are eventually transformed to three final nominees. The victor of the accolade is then decided from the final three by a voting process which included the coaches or technical directors of the 54 national associations affiliated to CAF.
The year 1995 was a great one for Liberia’s George Weah, who spent that particular year as an asset to both Marseille and AC Milan. In 1995 Weah was crowned as Africa’s best player, but in addition to that accolade, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first and only African thus far to win the highest individual award there is in world football.