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28.02.2007 Football News

Will It Be Drogba, Essien Or Eto’o Yet Again?

By mtn
Will It Be Drogba, Essien Or Eto’o Yet Again?

Another tight finish to determine the African Footballer of the Year is expected when the winner is named at the Confederation of African Football's annual awards gala in Accra, Ghana on Thursday.

In the 2005 plebiscite, only two votes separated Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o from runner-up Didier Drogba and an equally tight contest is forecast between the two giants again.

The third candidate for the award is again Chelsea's Ghana international Michael Essien.

Eto'o, who helped his Spanish club Barcelona win the UEFA Champions League last May, is seeking a record-breaking fourth successive award in the poll of national team coaches from Africa's 53 member countries.

His goal scoring record in the Spanish league last season and his role in helping Barcelona retain their Spanish league title adds to his chances while at national team level, Eto'o finished as the top scorer at the 2006 MTN Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.

But he also missed the penalty that saw Cameroon eliminated by Drogba's Ivorian side in the quarter-finals and did not participate at the World Cup. Injury also kept Eto'o out of action from September.

Drogba captained the Ivorians to the final of the 2006 MTN Africa Cup of Nations, where they lost in a post-match penalty shootout to hosts Egypt.

He was also skipper of an exciting Ivorians side at the World Cup finals in Germany, although missed the last group game after picking up successive yellow cards in the two previous matches.

At club level, his goals helped Chelsea to the English premier league for a second time and a semifinal berth in the Champions League.

Essien, who was third in the 2005 Footballer of the Year poll, also caries the same club credentials plus an outstanding role in helping World Cup debutants Ghana get past the first round at the 2006 finals in Germany.

The Black Stars were the only African side to progress past the first round.

Injury, however, kept Essien out of the 2006 MTN Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt.

The three finalists were cut down from an initial short list of 10 and then five. The last two to fall out of the reckoning were Portsmouth striker Nwankwo Kanu and Egypt's Mohamed Aboutrika, who won both the 2006 MTN Africa Cup of Nations and the MTN CAF Champions League in 2006.

The initial shortlist is determined by a vote of selected CAF standing committee members but the last five candidates are put out for voting by the coaches.

CAF have, however, failed to provide a breakdown of the individual country votes in recent years, without offering any explanation.

Thursday's award ceremony was originally scheduled for Abuja, Nigeria on January 18 but postponed. Again no reason was offered by African football's governing body.

Full list of African Footballer of the Year award winners*:

1970: Salif Keita (St Etienne, France and Mali)
1971: Ibrahim Sunday (Asante Kotoko and Ghana)
1972: Cherif Souleymane (Hafia and Guinea)
1973: Tshimen Bwanga (TP Mazembe Englebert and Zaire)
1974: Paul Moukila (CARA Brazzaville and Congo)
1975: Ahmed Faras (Mohammedia and Morocco)
1976: Roger Milla (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1977: Tarak Dhiab (Esperance and Tunisia)
1978: Karim Abdoul Razak (Asante Kotoko and Ghana)
1979: Thomas Nkono (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1980: Jean Manga Onguene (Canon Yaounde and Cameroon)
1981: Lakhdar Belloumi (GCR Mascara and Algeria)
1982: Thomas Nkono (Espanyol, Spain and Cameroon)
1983: Mahmoud Al Khatib (Al Ahli and Egypt)
1984: Theophile Abega (Toulouse, France and Cameroon)
1985: Mohamed Timoumi (Royal Armed Forces and Morocco)
1986: Badou Ezaki (Real Mallorca, Spain and Morocco)
1987: Rabah Madjer (FC Porto, Portugal and Algeria)
1988: Kalusha Bwalya (Cercle Bruges, Belgium and Zambia)
1989: George Weah (Monaco, France and Liberia)
1990: Roger Milla (St Denis, Reunion and Cameroon)
1991: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France and Ghana)
1992: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France and Ghana)
1993: Abedi Pele Ayew (Olympique Lyonnaise, France and Ghana)
1994: George Weah (Paris St Germain, France and Liberia) and Emmanuel Amunike (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal and Nigeria)
1995: George Weah (AC Milan, Italy and Liberia)
1996: Nwankwo Kanu (Inter Milan, Italy and Nigeria)
1997: Victor Ikpeba (Monaco, France and Nigeria)
1998: Mustapha Hadji (Deportivo Coruna, Spain and Morocco)
1999: Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal, England and Nigeria)
2000: Patrick Mboma (Parma, Italy and Cameroon)
2001: El Hadji Diouf (Rennes, France and Senegal)
2002: El Hadji Diouf (Liverpool, England and Senegal)
2003: Samuel Eto'o (Real Mallorca, Spain and Cameroon)
2004: Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona, Spain and Cameroon)
2005: Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona, Spain and Cameroon)

(*Note: The award was organised by the French soccer magazine 'France Football' until 1994, after which the Confederation of African Football instituted a new award.)