The daily countdown fever to the 2008 GLO-CAF African Footballer of the Year awards was broken when a Nigerian radio station, Inspiration FM, announced that a Virgin Atlantic flight from London carrying Michael Essien of Ghana and English premiership club Chelsea, as well as Emmanuel Adebayor of Togo and Arsenal, also in the English premiership, had touched down early Tuesday. Although the third nominee – Mohamed Aboutrika of Egyptian club Al Ahly – trailed the first two hopes were high among certain African enthusiasts who claimed that an award from Africa to a local African player would culminate the countdown to the 2010 World Cup slated to take place in South Africa.
“Surprised but not shocked” were the words of football enthusiast, Stephen Johnson, as the winner of the GLO-CAF African footballer of the year was announced. With a whopping 30 goal aggregate in all competitions as well as another 14 so far during this campaign, Adebayor had been tipped to win by Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o against four time nominee, Michael Essien and the striker who is slowly being named the striker with the midas touch, Aboutrika. This makes him the first Togolese ever to snatch the prestigious African footballer of the year award.
South African Alice Mattlou, took home the covetted African Women’s footballer of the year.
In an earlier interview with the Daily Sun newspaper in Nigeria, Jay-Jay Okocha said “If it [CAF] is to pick the player that merits the 2008 award, I will give it to Aboutrika without blinking my eyes,”. Aboutrika has been lauded as a determining factor that saw both the Egyptian national team and his club, Al Aly, clinch the winning continental football titles, with Al Aly sailing to a comfortable win at the local football championship as well.
Aboutrika’s disappointed fans were however consoled as the golden striker was crowned the Inter-Clubs player of the Year with a multitude of awards going to his native Egypt. The six time African club champions were voted the best club of the year while Egyptian national team grabbed the national team of the year award. The proud recipient of the national coach of the year went to Hassan Shehata.
Notwithstanding these highly prestigious compensation, Stephen Johnson still believes that “Michael Essien and Adebayor, although instrumental in both their local clubs and national teams are yet to encounter the midas-touch-effect Aboutrika has produced (…) on the other hand, it would have been great to have a home made winner as the World Cup approaches”. According to him, nothing compares to the top award. Historically, the Glo-CAF awards has been dominated by Europe-based players and has gone to an African-based player only once. The first and last African-based player to have crossed the finish line to win the award was Emmanuel Amunike of Nigeria in 1994, when he was playing for Egyptian team, Zamalek.
The African Footballer of the Year award is the most prestigious of all the categories, which also include the best footballer playing on the continent, best female player, best coach and best club. The nominations for the Glo-CAF African Footballer of the Year Award were scaled down to three names with Togo’s Adebayor Emmanuel, Egypt’s Aboutrika Mohammed, and Ghana’s Michael Essien making it to the final list.
The 2008 GLO-CAF award gala was moved from Dakar in Senegal to Lagos, Nigeria, and the date changed from 23 January to 10 February, in a move that African soccer’s governing body CAF said was aimed at ”securing the release of all nominees” for the awards.
List of award winners