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Drogba: King of African Football
by Amin George Forji
2007-03-03 10:58:57
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Didier Drogba, Chelsea's Ivorian prolific striker, was named 2006 Player of the Year by the African Football Governing body, CAF, following a ballot of Africa's 53 national team coaches in the Ghanaian capital of Accra for the country's first time. In what turned out to be a very close race, Drogba, 28, beat his closest rival, Cameroonian and Barcelona striker, Samuel Eto'o, 25, by 79 votes to 74.

The other contender for this year's award was Ghanaian-born Michael Essien, who is in fact Drogba's team-mate at Chelsea and he came third with 36 votes. The three finalists have become household names during the past three years, although not in Africa, but in Europe where they have been playing for two of the finest football teams over the past few years.

During his tenure as captain of the Ivorian team, Didier Drogba has brought more glory to his country than any other captain in the team's history. He decisively captained his side to a maiden World Cup place in Germany, knocking out favourite Cameroon. During the last African Nation's Cup in Egypt in 2006, he led his team to finals, where they lost to hosts Egypt on penalties. He was one of the major forces that helped Chelsea win the English Premiership last year and he already has a tally of 28 goals this year making him the highest scorer in the league, plus ranked the most competitive in the world. "It is a great honour to be recognised," thanked Drogba, "I feel an indescribable joy and it's also a reward for all the sacrifices I have made in the past."

Eto'o who has won the three past awards was hoping for record quadruple feat. Apart from Eto'o, the only other player to have claimed a hat-trick in the award is Abedi Pele of Ghana in the 1990s. Although Cameroon was eliminated at the quarter finals of the last African Nation's Cup, nonetheless, Eto'o's five goals made him the top scorer of the tournament. He helped Barcelona last year to win both La Liga and the Champions League, plus he won the Spanish Pichichi award with 26 goals. Nevertheless, he has suffered from misfortune this season, having been kept on the sidelines for five months following injuries he sustained in September 2006.

Although he inspired his team to the second round of the World Cup, Essien had been widely predicted by the press, even before the ballot, to come third, so the eventual outcome was of little surprise. The player is one of Chelsea's backbone in defence.

The award has been presented since 1970, when Salif Keita took the inaugural prize formerly organised by the French sports magazine France Football. It was taking over in 1994 by CAF, who instituted a new formula. Apart from the African Footballer of the Year prize, CAF also names another six awards:

-Young African Footballer of 2006: Taye Taiwo (Nigeria)
-National team of the year: Egypt
-Coach of the year: Manuel Jose (Egypt's Al Ahli)
-Inter-club team of the year: Egypt's Al Ahli
-Inter-club player of the year: Mohamed Aboutrika - Ahly (Egypt); and
-Female player of the year: Cynthia Uwak (Nigeria)

Past winners:

1970: Salif Keita (St Etienne, France and Mali)
1971: Ibrahim Sunday (Asante Kotoko and Ghana)
1972: Cherif Souleymane (Hafia and Guinea)
1973: Tshimen Bwanga (TP Mazembe Englebert and Zaire)
1974: Paul Moukila (CARA Brazzaville and Congo)
1975: Ahmed Faras (Mohammedia and Morocco)
1976: Roger Milla (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1977: Tarak Dhiab (Esperance and Tunisia)
1978: Karim Abdoul Razak (Asante Kotoko and Ghana)
1979: Thomas Nkono (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1980: Jean Manga Onguene (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1981: Lakhdar Belloumi (GCR Mascara and Algeria)
1982: Thomas Nkono (Espanyol, Spain and Cameroon)
1983: Mahmoud Al Khatib (Al Ahli and Egypt)
1984: Theophile Abega (Toulouse, France and Cameroon)
1985: Mohamed Timoumi (Royal Armed Forces and Morocco)
1986: Badou Ezaki (Real Mallorca, Spain and Morocco)
1987: Rabah Madjer (FC Porto, Portugal and Algeria)
1988: Kalusha Bwalya (Cercle Bruges, Belgium and Zambia)
1989: George Weah (Monaco, France and Liberia)
1990: Roger Milla (St Denis, Reunion and Cameroon)
1991: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France and Ghana)
1992: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France and Ghana)
1993: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Lyonnaise, France and Ghana)
1994: George Weah (Paris St Germain, France and Liberia) and Emmanuel Amunike (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal and Nigeria) 1995: George Weah (AC Milan, Italy and Liberia) 1996: Nwankwo Kanu (Inter Milan, Italy and Nigeria)
1997: Victor Ikpeba (Monaco, France and Nigeria)
1998: Mustapha Hadji (Deportivo Coruna, Spain and Morocco)
1999: Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal, England and Nigeria)
2000: Patrick Mboma (Parma, Italy and Cameroon)
2001: El Hadji Diouf (Rennes, France and Senegal)
2002: El Hadji Diouf (Liverpool, England and Senegal)
2003: Samuel Eto'o (Real Mallorca, Spain and Cameroon)
2004: Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona, Spain and Cameroon)
2005: Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona, Spain and Cameroon)

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Asa2007-03-04 14:02:25
Bloody Chelsea!

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