African Footballer of the Year: This time for Sadio Mané

DAKAR, January 8, 2020 – Finally! A long-standing wish comes true for Sadio Mané. The Senegalese has been awarded the best African football player of the year 2019 last night in Hurghada, Egypt during the CAF Awards ceremony. The consecration comes after a long wait, punctuated by moments of suspense, interrogation, and even anger, sometimes.

After the announcement of the results for the France Football “Ballon d’Or”, Mané fans expressed incomprehension as to how he finished in fourth place. For most sports analysts, the votes didn’t make sense. Sadio Mané’s performance was underestimated. Winner of the Champions League and the Super Cup with his club Liverpool, top scorer of the Premier League, alongside teammate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Vice African champion with Senegal National Team in 2019, Mané appeared as the best among the bests. Why then didn’t he even make the top 3 for the Ballon d’Or?

Sadio coming fourth in the final standings with 347 votes from the panel of world football journalists was analyzed as a disunity of Africans. “If African journalists voted for him, he would have been among the top 3 at least,” a Senegalese journalist said.

But while the discussions were going on, Sadio was just thankful. “I am very proud and happy to be ranked fourth. I want to move forward and, why not, be number one in the future. I’ll do everything I can to win the Champions League and the Premier League with Liverpool and we’ll see what happens,” the Senegalese said on Liverpool’s official website.

This kind of speech was what he delivered a year ago when the African best football player was awarded to his teammate Salah in Dakar. “I promise to work hard to get this trophy next year,” he declared.

Since then, the Liverpool striker kept focused on what he does the best: playing football to be on the top. In December, he won the World Club Cup with Liverpool and confirmed his talent. The 27-year-old from Bambali (a village located in the southern part of Senegal) was full of pride when he recalled this promise yesterday evening after receiving the trophy from CAF President Ahmad Ahmad. “I promised it last year and we won it together. I’m very happy and I would like to thank my family in particular my uncle here present, the Egyptian people for their support, my coach, my national team and all the Senegalese people,” Mané said at the awards ceremony.  “It was a long way to come to realize my childhood dream. I will be ever grateful to all Senegalese people especially my mom for the constant support.”

Nominated in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Sadio finally made it in 2019 ahead of his Egyptian team-mate Mohammed Salah, who won the previous two editions (2017, 2018), and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez, captain and one of the main architects of Les Fennecs’ CAF Africa Cup of Nations victory. This is the first time that Mané is winning this award. The last Senegalese to be crowned champion was El-Hadji Diouf in 2001 and 2002.

“This is well deserved, my brother. I like the champion you are,” Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o said congratulating the winner. From Generation Football to Liverpool, through FC Metz (France), Red Bulls Salzburg (Austria) and Southampton (England), he has had to build his career being patient and humble.

Mané’s performance has been recognized worldwide. In June, he was crowned Onze d’Or before being named best player of the year 2019 by the magazine So foot in December. A proper tribute will be paid to him today in Dakar by his Senegalese fans under the presidency of His Excellency, Macky Sall.

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