The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have named Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor as the continent's best player for 2008 at an elaborate awards ceremony last night. Adebayor, 25 later this month, beat final nominees Mohamed Aboutrika of Egypt and Ghana's Michael Essien in a vote that involved the national team coaches of CAF's 54 member-nations.
The Arsenal star, accompanied by his mother, took home a crystal trophy and a cash prize of US$20,000. It was the first time a Togolese had claimed the accolade of Africa's best player. "This is a special night for me. I dedicate this award to my mum, without her, I would have been nothing. My father is no more but wherever he is, he will be proud of me," said Adebayor. "The 2010 World Cup will be in Africa for the first time and we as Africans can achieve a lot if we believe."
Adebayor's exploits of the past year were mainly with his English Premier League club. In the absence of France international Thierry Henry, who departed for Spanish club Barcelona, the Togo star stepped up to finish the season with an impressive tally of 30 goals in 49 matches. The former Monaco ace also inspired the Hawks of Togo to reach the final qualifying round for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and CAF African Cup of Nations.
The awards night was graced by many dignitaries including FIFA President Joseph Blatter and CAF President Issa Hayatou. Al-Ahly's Aboutrika claimed a consolation prize as the Inter-Club Player of the Year. Several other Egyptians won various award categories. Egypt coach, Hassan Shehata was Africa's Coach of the Year, and the team he led to successfully defend the Nations Cup in Accra last year were picked as the best national team on the continent.
Al-Ahly were crowned Club of the Year ahead of Tunisia's CS Sfaxien, who defended the CAF Confederation Cup, and beaten CAF Champions League finalists, Cotonsport from Cameroon.
Salomon Kalou of Côte d'Ivoire and Chelsea was the CAF Young Player of the Year, ahead of Cameroon's Stephane Mbia and Nigerian forward Victor Obinna Nsofor. The previous year's winner was Zambia's Clifford Mulenga, who now features for South African Premier Soccer League club Thanda Royal Zulu. Former Nigeria skipper and coach Christian Chukwu was awarded the African Legend prize.
CAF Young Player: Salomon Kalou - Ivory Coast/Chelsea
CAF Female Player: Alice Matlou - South Africa
National Team of the Year: Egypt
Coach of the Year: Hassan Shehata - Egypt
Best Club: Al-Ahly - Egypt
Inter-Club Player of the Year: Mohamed Aboutrika - Al Ahly
African Legend: Christian Chukwu - Nigeria