Africa's Best: Osimhen joins Kanu, Ikpeba, other greats on prestigious list

Africa's Best: Osimhen joins Kanu, Ikpeba, other greats on prestigious list

  • Victor Osimhen ended Nigeria's 24-year wait for glory when he was named the winner of the 2023 Africa Player of the Year at the CAF Awards ceremony in Marrakech, Morocco, on Monday.
  • The Napoli striker beat off fierce competition from Morocco and PSG defender, Achraf Hakimi as well as Egypt and Liverpool forward, Mohamed Salah to become the first Nigerian to win the award since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999.

When Kanu won the honour after his remarkable comeback from a life-threatening heart problem to star for Arsenal, not many people would have imagined that it would take another Nigerian nearly two-and-a-half decades to reach the pinnacle of African football.

This is especially so since Nigerians dominated the early years of the CAF awards, with five triumphs in the first eight editions.

After Ghana's Abedi Pele claimed the inaugural Best Player award in 1992, Rashidi Yekini secured Nigeria's first win the following year.

The free-scoring big striker then handed it to compatriot Emmanuel Amuneke, whose brace in the final against Zambia helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Emmanuel Amunike and Daniel Amokachi finished in the final three as Liberia's George Weah was named Africa's best in 1995.

However, Nwankwo Kanu returned Nigeria to the podium in 1996 when he won the first of his two Football of the Year awards following his gold medal exploits at the Atalanta Olympics.

Victor Ikpeba rode to victory the following year on the back of his excellent displays for Monaco in the French Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions League.

In 1998, despite Austin Okocha's brilliance at the FIFA World Cup in France, Mustapha Hadji beat the Nigerian playmaker to the Best Player by only two points.

Many desired it in 1999, only for Kanu to become the first player to win the award multiple times with his second triumph.

A few Nigerians came close to winning it since then: Okocha finished third in 2003 and 2004, Mikel John Obi finished second behind Yaya Touré in 2013, while Vincent Enyeama ended in third place in 2014.

None, however, could bring the award home in 24 years until Monday, December 11, when Osimhen was crowned the king of African football.

The Africa Best Player award is the crowning glory in a year when Osimhen has already been named the winner of several awards, including the Serie A Footballer of the Year, Serie A Best Striker, and Capocannoniere.

The Nigerian forward will be the most celebrated footballer when the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Ivory Coast in January. 

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