Egypt, which had made headline s for securing the hosting rights for the Africa Nations Cup 2019, was smiling again as its star forward, Mohamed Salah was voted as the African Footballer of the Year for the second successive year.
Salah beat fellow nominees, Liverpool team mate Sadio Mane and Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the Confederation of African Football’s awards ceremony in Dakar on Tuesday.
He edged the same two players last year in a vote decided by the technical directors and head coaches of 56 CAF member associations.
“This award is very big for me, I love it because I saw it when I was young and I always had a dream to win it one day,” Salah said when collecting his trophy for his 2018 exploits.
“I’m proud to win it twice, I must thank my family and my team mates, and I dedicate this award to my country, Egypt.”
The other male awards went to France-born Morocco coach Herve Renard, the Mauritania national team, and Moroccan Achraf Hakimi in the youth category.
South African Chrestinah Kgatlana was voted Women’s Player of the Year and South Africa coach Desiree Ellis and the Nigeria national team were the other female winners.
‘‘I dedicate this award to every female footballer on the continent, and to all girls who want to become champions,’‘ said Kgatlana in her acceptance speech.
The Goal of the Year award also went to Kgatlana.
Salah in 2018
Salah helped Liverpool reach the 2018 Champions League final but suffered a shoulder injury during the 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in Kiev.
That injury raised doubts about his World Cup participation but he regained fitness to represent Egypt in the finals in Russia, scoring twice as they exited in the first round.
He has scored 13 Premier League goals this season to guide Liverpool to the top of the standings.
It is the third time an Egyptian player has claimed the crown, with Mahmoud El Khatib’s 1983 victory being the other occasion.
The rise of Salah
Salah was born in a northern Egyptian town Nagrig and used to make eight-hour return trips on buses to train with Cairo-based El Mokawloon (Arab Contractors).
Spotted by scouts from Swiss club Basel, he moved there in 2012 before joining Premier League giants Chelsea two years later.
Unhappy with his two-goal return, Chelsea lent Salah to Italian outfits Fiorentina and Roma, then sold him to the latter club.
Salah blossomed in Rome, averaging close to a goal every two matches, and Liverpool paid almost 37 million pounds (about $47 mn/41 mn euros) to sign him two years ago.