Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor scooped the prestigious Africa Footballer of Year award in Lagos on Tuesday night but it was Banyana Banyana star striker Noko (Alice) Matlou who stole the limelight when she was named Woman Footballer of the Year.
The relatively unknown South African star was rewarded for her sterling performance at the African Women’s Championship (AWC) in Equatorial Guinea last year when she finished joint top goalscorer with six goals and shared the 2008 African Football Confederation (CAF) Golden Boot Award with Genoveva Anonma of Equatorial Guinea. Matlou was also the runner-up for the Player of the Tournament award.
Her scoring exploits also caught the eye in the Cosafa tournament in May when she netted an incredible 12 goals in five matches, including a hat-trick in the final in Angola, which South Africa won. Matlou was voted Player of the Match three times as well as the overall Player of the Tournament.
It was indeed a remarkable year as she led Banyana Banyana and the national under-20 team to a silver medal and secured the Fair Play Award from the AWC after Banyana Banyana narrowly lost 2-1 to Equatorial Guinea in the final.
On Tuesday night more than 700 supporters from across Africa and the world descended on Lagos to witness the crowning of Matlou and Adebayor as king and queen of African soccer. Among the heavyweights present were African Football Confederation (CAF) president, Issa Hayatou, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and World Cup Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan.
The evening’s celebrations and acknowledgment of Africa’s best soccer-playing talent was sadly tainted by controversy. Egyptian Al Ahly star Mohamed Aboutreika was the hot favourite tipped to win the evening’s most sought-after award, but after he was announced as Interclub Player of the Year, it seemed inevitable that the prize would go to Togo’s Adebayor.
The tall Arsenal player almost did not make the ceremony after a debacle over his travel arrangements and the need to confirm who was picking up his tab.
The Young Player of the Year accolade went to Côte d’Ivoire’s Solomon Kalou. The 23-year-old Chelsea player was evidently excited to be among the winners. However, with the very fresh sacking of Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari as a hot topic at most tables, it was without doubt that the forward left/right winger was going to be asked to comment.
Kalou managed to side step the questions when he said that he liked and admired Scolari. Stating that he is just a player, Kalou refused to comment further.
Other notable awards went to Al-Ahly, which received the Club of The Year title, while Shehata Hassan — also from Egypt — clinched Coach of the Year.
News is out that next year’s CAF awards may very well be hosted in Cape Town. With the Fifa World Cup just a few months ahead, it could very well be the icing on the cake.