Cameroon superstar Samuel Eto’o boasted before the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations that he would smash the 36-year-old record for the most individual goals at one tournament.
That meant scoring 10 goals to overtake long-forgotten Mulamba Ndaye, a striker from the Democratic Republic of Congo who amassed nine in six games while helping his country win the 1974 edition staged by Egypt.
But Inter Milan striker Eto’o failed miserably in the often extreme heat and humidity of oil-rich Angola, managing just two from four outings as the Indomitable Lions made a quarterfinals exit.
The record was never in the remotest danger of being broken, but what Eto’o and other star African strikers like Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast could never have imagined was who would emerge as the leading tournament marksman.
Egyptian Mohamed Nagy Ismail Afash, who carries the strange nickname of ‘Gedo’ given it means ‘grandfather’ in Arabic and he does not turn 26 until October, certainly was not a candidate.
However, when the attacking midfielder from Al-Ittihad in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria scored the lone goal of the final against Ghana on Sunday, it was an unrivalled fifth of the three-week competition.
And the footballer who has yet to start a game for his country finished ahead of such prolific scorers as Eto’o, Angolan Flavio Amado, Mali’s Frederic Kanoute and Ivorians Drogba and Salomon Kalou.
Gedo was introduced during the second half in each of the six matches Egypt played en route to an unprecedented third consecutive title, spending a total of 137 minutes on the pitch.
He scored against Nigeria, Mozambique, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana with minnows Benin the only country who managed to contain a player expected to move abroad sooner rather than later.
Easily the most crucial was that which settled the final as he exchanged passes with fellow striker Mohamed Zidan before curling the ball across goalkeeper Richard Kingson into the far corner of the net.
After 85 minutes virtually devoid of excitement in a final where caution seemed to be first, second and third priorities of both combatants, Africa was grateful to Gedo for having been spared 30 minutes’ extra time and possibly a penalty shootout.
Being the final match-winner put the seal on a fairytale rise to stardom for Gedo, who made his international debut in a drawn home Nations Cup warm-up against fellow qualifiers Malawi at the end of December.
His name appeared on the scoresheet for the first time early last month when Egypt edged Mali 1-0 in a Dubai limb-loosener for Angola after, naturally, coming off the bench.
Veteran coach Hassan Shehata, architect of the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Nations Cup triumphs, clearly views Gedo as a rugby union-style impact player, normally introducing him midway through the second half.
English Premier League club Sunderland and Spanish sides Osasuna and Real Sociedad are reportedly interested in him and if he continues to score at international level every 27 minutes the list will surely expand. — AFP