Uganda Cranes and Mamelodi Sundowns first choice goalkeeper Dennis Onyango for obvious reasons left the Abuja International Conference Centre with the broadest smile.
Voted as the Best Player of the Year (2016) – Based in Africa, Onyango was named the first choice goalkeeper on the CAF select team of the year, his club Mamelodi Sundowns won the Club of the Year as Uganda came ahead of 2016 CHAN champions DR Congo and Senegal for the National Team of the Year.
Onyango tallied 252 Votes, compared to clubmate Khama Billiat’s 228 and 208 for Zambia and TP Mazembe midfielder Rainford Kalaba.
Uganda Cranes won the team of the gong for qualifying to the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time in 39 years.
FUFA Chief Executive Officer, Edgar Watson walked elegantly and with confidence to pick Uganda Cranes award that surely crowned the best of years for Milutin Sredojevic’s side that played at the 2016 CHAN tournament, was successful in the AFCON 2017 and FIFA 2018 opening World Cup qualifier.
Algeria and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez won the most coveted award on the night (African Player of the Year) beating last year’s winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon & Borussia Dortmund and Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool).
In a brief acknowledgement speech, Mahrez noted;
It is an honour to receive this award. I thank all teammates at Leicester and Algeria.
I dedicate this award to my family, to Algerians, the entire Africa and all the people who have spoken at the awards
Nigeria and Arsenal ladies forward Asiast Oshoala took home the Women Player of the Year award. Two other Nigerians Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi won the Most Promising and Youth Player of the Year accolades respectively.
Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane was crowned the most outstanding coach of the year.
Mosimane edged Florent Ibenge (winning coach of the 2016 CHAN tournament with DR Congo) and Florence Omagbemi (Nigeria women’s national team that won the Africa women championship).
Towering Gambian, Bakary Papa Gassama was the referee of the year.
Meanwhile, Manuel Lopes Nascimento, President of Guinea Bissau Football Federation was the Leader of the Year.
Laurent Pokou, Former player of Cote d’Ivoire and Emilienne Mbango, former player of Cameroon were the Legend Award winners.
The awards’ night emcees Mimi Fawaz, premium show host and presenter of Sports 360 on Vox Africa, and popular Nigerian actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) maintained the natural flow of the event meanwhile the different guests were treated to a mixture of music across the continent including the Femi Kuti’s famous saxaphone.
The awards also corresponded with the silver jubilee anniversary of the CAF Awards.
Full list of Winners:
African Player of the Year – Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Leicester City)
African Player of the Year – Based in Africa: Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns)
Women’s Player of the Year: Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria & Arsenal Ladies)
Most Promising Talent: Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria & Manchester City)
Youth Player of the Year: Alex Iwobi (Nigeria and Arsenal)
Coach of the Year: Pitso Mosimane (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Club of the Year: Mamelodi Sundowns
National Team of the Year:Uganda
Women’s National Team of the Year:Nigeria
Referee of the Year: Bakary Papa Gassama
Football Leader of the Year: Manuel Lopes Nascimento, President of Guinea Bissau Football Federation
Legend Award: Laurent Pokou, Former player of Cote d’Ivoire and Emilienne MBANGO, Former player of Cameroon
Africa Finest XI
Goalkeeper: Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns)
Defenders: Serge Aurier (Cote d’Ivoire & Paris Saint-Germain), Aymen Abdennour (Tunisia & Valencia), Eric Bailly (Cote d’Ivoire & Manchester United), Joyce Lomalisa (DR Congo & AS Vita)
Midfielders: Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe & Mamelodi Sundowns), Rainford Kalaba (Zambia & TP Mazembe), Keegan Dolly (South Africa & Mamelodi Sundowns)
Forwards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon & Borussia Dortmund), Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Leicester City)
Aymen Mathlouthi (Tunisia & Etoile du Sahel), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal & Napoli), Salif Coulibaly (Mali & TP Mazembe), Islam Slimani (Algeria & Leicester City), Mohamed Salah (Egypt & Roma), Kelechi IHEANACHO (Nigeria & Manchester City), Alex Iwobi (Nigeria and Arsenal)