Kanoute wins top African soccer award

Mali and Sevilla forward Frederic Kanoute was named Africa Player of 2007 on Friday, beating Chelsea clubmates Michael Essien and Didier Drogba to become the first European-born player to earn the honour.

Nigeria’s Cynthia Uwak was chosen as the best women’s player ahead of South Africa’s Modise Portia.

Kanoute was chosen after he helped Mali qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, under way in Ghana. Mali have already been eliminated in group play.

Kanoute (30) was born in France to Malian parents. “I dedicate this to my family, who could not be here and to the people of Mali,” he said.
“I believe that sport can be used as a tool for development in Africa.”

He is the first winner from Mali since Salif Keita received the inaugural award in 1970.

Côte d’Ivoire captain Drogba was the 2006 recipient.

The timing of the awards has come under heavy criticism because of the African championship. Ghana coach Claude LeRoy refused Essien permission to travel to Lomé, which is a three-hour drive from the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

On Sunday, Ghana play Nigeria in the quarterfinals, and Guinea meet Côte d’Ivoire. On Monday, defending champions Egypt take on Angola and four-time winners Cameroon play Tunisia.

The player awards are run by the Confederation of African Football with voting conducted by national coaches from 53 African countries.—Sapa-AP

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