ZAMBIA skipper, Christopher Katongo has become the first player from southern Africa to win the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) African Footballer of the Year award, describing it as something he will always cherish for the rest of his life.
Katongo got over 40 per cent of the votes to stave off competition from 2009 BBC African Footballer of the Year award winner, Didier Drogba with his Ivorian counterpart, Yaya Toure, Senegal's Demba Ba and Younes Belhanda of Morocco.
The inspirational Chipolopolo captain is only the third Zambian to pick up a continental accolade after legend Kalusha Bwalya won the 1988 African Footballer of the Year and Clifford Mulenga got the 2007 African Young Player of the Year.
Katongo, who led Zambia to a historic 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) triumph, was the people's favourite on both online and text messages from mobile phones during the vote cast which closed last Thursday.
While the other four players won silverware at their respective clubs in Europe, the 30-year-old Katongo's performance and achievements were considered as the greatest by African football fans.
In an interview with BBC Sport after receiving the prestigious award, Katongo thanked the people who voted for him, saying getting the 2012 accolade was the fantastic moment for him.
He said it was something he would not forget in his career and thanked his Chipolopolo teammates for the support which helped in him earning the award.
Katongo said he was speechless and that his heart was full of joy
"This is a fantastic moment for me. I thank the people who voted for me. It is something I will never forget in my career.
"This means a lot for the young people and the young players who look up to me. I could not have achieved this without the support of my team-mates," Katongo said.
Kalusha, who is now the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president, commended Katongo for winning the award and that he had carried the legacy of the greatness of the national team's jersey 11 well.
"You have continued the great legacy of the number 11 shirt. I'm sure you will remember the late Ben Bamfuchile who gave you your first national team game. When Ben was there, we discussed the shirt and when giving you that number 11, we said that this shirt can score goals on its own. The number itself scores the goals and you have lived up to it. Very well done," Kalusha said.
Sport and Youth Minister, Chishimba Kambwili dedicated the award to the rest of the team.
"It's wonderful that we continue winning. You would not have been able to do it on your own that's why I would like to dedicate this award to the whole national team," Kambwili, who graced an earlier award ceremony in Lusaka yesterday, said.
Chipolopolo assistant coach, Patrice Beaumelle described Katongo as a good example to his teammates and that he was always committed to duty.
Later in the evening yesterday, BBC organised a glittering award presentation ceremony which was also attended by Zambia coach, Herve Renard at Arcades Shopping Mall.
However, the only blemish on the night was when there was a power black-out at Arcades as Katongo was being interviewed.
According to BBC, the shortlist for the award, that was won by Ghanaian Andre Ayew last year, was drawn up by football experts from every country in Africa, who based their choices on players' skill, technical ability, teamwork, consistency and fair play.
Katongo of Chinese side, Henan Construction, scored three goals on Zambia's route to lift the 2012 AFCON trophy during the continental championship co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
He also scored one of the Chipolopolo's penalties during a shoot-out against bookmakers' favourites, Ivory Coast which was eventually won by Zambia 8-7.
Katongo also played a pivotal role in ensuring Zambia qualified to the 2013 AFCON finals to defend the crown in South Africa.
The Chipolopolo striker is also heavily involved in Zambia's crusade to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Zambia currently leads the group in the qualifiers ahead of Ghana, Sudan and Lesotho.