Nigeria’s last hope Alex Iwobi has been eliminated as reigning African Player of the Year, Mohamed Salah, his Liverpool club-mate Sadio Mane and 2015 winner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, complete the top three for the most prestigious individual accolade in African football.
A repeat of last year, the three players will be hoping to begin the year with the crown of Player of the Year for their exploits in 2018. The winner will be unveiled at the Awards Gala on 8 January 2019 in Dakar, Senegal.
Aubameyang, maintains his familiar status amongst the top three finalists since 2014, thus five times in a row and equaling the record of Ivorian legend Yaya Toure and Ghanaian midfield supremo Michael Essien. Four-time Player of the Year, Toure, achieved the feat (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and Essien (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). The 29-year old will be hoping to lay his hands on the enviable crown a second time.
Salah, 26, made history becoming the first Egyptian to be decorated Player of the Year since the inception of the awards scheme in 1992. It is the second time, he has made the final three and Salah has his eyes set on joining the elite league of players to win the honour back-to-back. Senegalese El Hadji Diouf (2001, 2002), Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon (2003, 2004) and Toure (2011, 2012) are the only three to win successive titles.
It is a hat-trick for 26-year old Mane in the top three, coming third in 2016 and second in 2017. He will be hoping to be third time lucky and become the second Senegalese to win the topmost individual honour after Diouf.
In the women category, Nigerian duo Asisat Oshoala and Francisca Ordega, and South African Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana have made the final three for the Women’s Player of the Year 2018.
The three made the cut after a performance-filled year which saw them make headlines at both club and national levels.
Oshoala, winner for the past two years with three titles overall (2014, 2016, 2017) has her sights on a fourth title, to equal the feat of compatriot Perpetua Nkwocha (2004, 2005, 2010, 2011). The 24-year old helped Nigeria to successively defend their title during the Total Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Ghana last December.
Ordega earned herself cult status following her exploits at the AWCON and in the USA, where plies her trade with Washington Spirit. The 25-year old wowed fans with her pacy runs from the wings as Nigeria cruised to the title.
South African forward Kgatlana, 22, was the star of the last AWCON, scooping the Most Valuable Player and Top scorer accolades as Banyana Banyana reached the final. Her second nomination at this level and hoping to become the second South African after Noko Matlou (2008) to be crowned ‘Queen’ of African football.