Mo Sallah retains African Player of the Year award; Egypt awarded rights to 2019 AFCON finals

By Duncan Mlanjira 

Egypt’s and English Premier League side Liverpool’s international, Mohammed Sallah has retained the African Footballer of the Year accolade which he was awarded on Tuesday, January 8 at a ceremony in Dakar, Senegal.

And earlier, during the Confederation of African Football executive committee, Egypt were awarded the rights to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), officially replacing original hosts Cameroon, who were stripped of their duties in November because of slow preparations and security concerns.

Sallah beat two other contenders to the title — Liverpool team mate Sadio Mane from Senegal and Gabon’s Arsenal’s goal poacher Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng.

The Egyptian joins other African legends who have gone on to retain the accolade, namely Abedi Ayew Pele (1991, 92, 93); George Weah (1994, 95); El Hadji Diouf (2001, 2002); Samuel Eto’o (2003, 04, 05, 10) and Yaya Toure (2011, 12, 13, 14).

Women’s Player of the Year is Thembi Kgatlana from South Africa, Youth Player of the Year is Achraf Hakimi from Morocco, whose senior national team coach Herve Renard was voted the best.

On the 2019 hosting, Egypt beat South Africa, the only other nation to bid, by 16 votes to one and the north Africans have just six months to prepare for the expanded 24-team finals, which kick off in June.

Egypt will be hosting the tournament for the fifth time having also done so in 1959, 1974, 1986 and 2006 and three of those occasions they won the title.

When they hosted in 2016, they lost in the final to Cameroon. The Pharaohs have won the African title a record seven times — 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010 — retaining it for three consecutive times from 2006.

Egypt FA president Hany Abu Rida told the media they will use eight stadia hosting in five different cities — Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said, Suez and the capital Cairo.

meanwhile, CAF has offered Cameroon the chance to stage the finals in two years’ time, which means that the original hosts for both the 2021 and 2023 finals have been asked to shift their by two years, a move which did not please Côte d’Ivoire — who were set to host the 2021.

Côte d’Ivoire has since protested against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but Guinea has accepted and announced on Monday that it will move its staging from 2023 to 2025.