Every year the Confederations of African Football, or CAF, names two African Players of the Year; one who is based in Africa, and one player overall. The shortlists of 30 for each award have just been released. The winners will be announced in Accra, Ghana on 4 January 2018, at an Awards Gala.
Winners are decided by votes from the Head Coaches and Technical Directors of the National Associations affiliated to the CAF, the CAF Technical and Development Committee and a panel of experts from the media.
While leading online sportsbooks have not yet released any official odds on whom the winners will be, the lists have already generated a lot of discussion. The names on them are of interest, of course, but so are the names that are not there.
Overall African Player of the Year 2017
Cameroon leads the way in the Overall Player category, with 3 nominated players. This is more than any other country, and considering they are the African Cup of Nations Champions this makes perfect sense. Goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, forward Vincent Aboubakar and, of course, Man of the Tournament Christian Bassogog have all been nominated.
Foreign-based players dominated this year’s Overall Player list, with Chelsea left back Victor Moses, winger Mohamed Salah, striker Pierre-Emerick Abumeyang, defender Eric Bailly and midfielder Naby Keita who play for Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United and RB Leizpig respectfully, among the frontrunners. Conspicuously absent are the names Victor Wanyama, who hails from Kenya and plays for the Tottenham Hotspurs, and Riyad Mahrez.
Salah had 19 goals and 15 assists with AS Roma last season, and since being traded he has had 10 goals and 4 assists in his first 16 matches for Liverpool. His teammate Sadio Mane, who hails from Senegal, scored 13 goals and assisted in another 8 last season, and is another worthy nominee. Keita got a record African transfer to Liverpool in 2018, on the strength of his first-ever Bundesliga campaign, so he is also a likely contender. Bailly was nominated last year too and continues to go from strength.
Algerian Mahrez, who plays for Leicester City, is the current Overall Player of the Year and although his performance this year has not matched the one that earned him the title it has still been impressive. Many people predicted that he would win, so the fact that he has not even been shortlisted is very surprising.
It could be that the CAF are looking to inject new blood; the only athlete on the 30-man shortlist who has taken the Overall African Player in the past is Abumeyang, and his chances look good after beating Robert Lewandowski, striker for Bayern Munich, to the Bundesliga’s Golden Boot. The fact that Gabon performed badly at the World Cup Qualifier and the African Cup of Nations will, however, probably count against him.
Africa-Based African Player of the Year 2017
The Africa-based Player of the Year for 2017 is most likely to come from North Africa; Tunisia has no less than 5 nominations, while Egypt has 2 and Morocco and Algeria both have 3. Then again, the team to watch could be the Mamelodi Sundowns; South Africa’s Percy Tau and Uganda’s Denis Onyango have both been nominated for Overall and Africa-Based Player. Could this mean that at least one of them will win at least one award?
After the Sundowns crashed out of the CAF Champions League in the quarter-finals this year, the fact that Tau and Onyango got such a strong nod is especially impressive. Onyango is, of course, the reigning Africa-Based Player of the Year, while both players were part of the team when the Brazilians won the Champions League in 2016. The aim of coach Pitso Mosimane has long been known to be moulding Tau into one of the continent’s best players, and he looks to be well on his way.
With so many potential winners, speculating until 4 January will certainly stay interesting, and it is safe to say that soccer fans will be keeping an eye on the players who have made it on to the shortlists.