Anticipation is mounting for the CAF Awards 2019, which will recognise African football's top performers of the year. Before the main event takes centre stage this evening in Hurghada, acclaimed footballers descended on Egypt to celebrate the occasion yesterday.
Youri Djorkaeff, Mido, Clementine Toure and Laura Georges participated in the FIFA Legends Talk at Cairo University yesterday.
This was followed by a match pitting African and world legends against each other, with the pyramids serving as a striking backdrop for a game in which the likes of Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Cafu and Abedi Pele showcased their skills alongside Djorkaeff & Co. A dramatic encounter saw a seven-goal thriller played out in stunning surroundings.
This evening, the King of African football will be crowned at the Albatros Citadel, Sahl Hasheesh, Hurghada amongst a list of three players, who have been worthy ambassadors of African football during the year under review. The trio includes Egyptian Mohamed Salah, winner for the past two editions, his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane of Senegal and Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez.
Of the top three contenders, Mane is the only one yet to lay his hands on the most prestigious individual honour in African football, with Mahrez winning the accolade in 2016.
From 1992 to 2018, from Ghana's Abedi Pele to Salah, 17 players have laid claim to the title of CAF Player of the Year.
Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o was the first to be crowned on four occasions - 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010; a record since equalled by Ivorian Yaya Toure, who made it four wins on the trot (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014).
Senegalese El Hadji Diouf also won the award twice in a row; 2001 and 2002 just as Salah, 2017 and 2018.
However, the first player to have been named CAF African Player of the Year on two occasions was ex-Nigeria captain, Nwankwo Kanu, in 1996 and 1999. Ivorian icon Didier Drogba also completed a double in 2006 and 2009.
Winners of the prestigious honour have come from either the midfield or attack; and that tradition will be respected yet again this time, with the three contenders being offensive players.
In addition, the 17 players to have been decorated since 1992, have and continue to remain amongst the foremost African ambassadors of the world's most popular sport.
There are also several others who were so near and yet so far, including Ivorian goalkeeper Alain Gouamene in 1992; Moroccan defender Noureddine Naybet (sixth in 1993); Nigerian Daniel Amokachi, who regularly featured among the top ten during his hey days, whilst Chadian Japhet N'Doram was virtually handicapped by the non-presence of his national team at the final phase of a major continental championship.
South African defender, Mark Fish also settled for sixth position in 1996. Ghanaian defender Samuel Kuffour narrowly missed out on two occasions, 1999 and 2001. Nigeria's Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha also missed out narrowly in 2003 and 2004.
Others are Michael Essien of Ghana, who made the final three an unprecedented five times in a row - 2005 (third), 2006 (third), 2007 (second), 2008 (third) and 2009 (third); Asamoah Gyan, also from Ghana, 2010 (second); Andre Ayew (Ghana), 2011 (third) & 2015 (third) and Malian Seydou Keita, 2011 (second). Nigeria's talismanic midfielder Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha also missed out narrowly on the prize in 2003 and 2004 finishing third and second respectively, just as compatriots John Obi Mikel and Vincent Enyeama, who finished second and third in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Egyptian Mohamed Aboutreika lost out in 2008, finishing second, the closest ever by a locally-based player, whilst fellow Ahmed "Mido' Hossam settled for third in 2002.
When the roll call for the laureates is launched, there is one noticeable observation. Cote d'Ivoire is the country which has the biggest number of triumphs, six in total, Toure (four) and Drogba (two); followed by Nigeria on five titles, two for Kanu, one each for Emmanuel Amuneke, Rashidi Yekini and Victor Ikpeba. Patrick Mboma won it once coupled with Eto'o's four also gives Cameroon five titles.
Diouf is responsible for the only two titles in the name of Senegal, whilst Egypt also has two titles courtesy Mohamed Salah. One-time winners include Ghana - Abedi Pele, Liberia - George Weah (the only African player to have been crowned FIFA World Footballer of the Year), Morocco - Mustapha Hadji, Mali - Frederic Kanoute and Togo - Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Aubameyang (Gabon) and Mahrez (Algeria).
Another common feature is that all winners plied their trade in Europe at the time of their coronation.
1992 Abedi AYEW PELE (Ghana)
1993 Rashidi YEKINI (Nigeria)
1994 Emmanuel AMUNEKE (Nigeria)
1995 George WEAH (Liberia)
1996 Nwankwo KANU (Nigeria)
1997 Victor IKPEBA (Nigeria)
1998 Mustapha HADJI (Morocco)
1999 Nwankwo KANU (Nigeria)
2000 Patrick MBOMA (Cameroon)
2001 El-Hadji DIOUF (Senegal)
2002 El Hadji DIOUF (Senegal)
2003 Samuel ETO'O (Cameroon)
2004 Samuel ETO'O (Cameroon)
2005 Samuel ETO'O (Cameroon)
2006 Didier DROGBA (Côte d'Ivoire)
2007 Frederic KANOUTE (Mali)
2008 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR (Togo)
2009 Didier DROGBA (Côte d'Ivoire)
2010 Samuel ETO'O (Cameroon)
2011 Yaya TOURE (Côte d'Ivoire)
2012 Yaya TOURE (Côte d'Ivoire)
2013 Yaya TOURE (Côte d'Ivoire)
2014 Yaya TOURE (Côte d'Ivoire)
2015 Pierre-Emerick AUBAMEYANG (Gabon)
2016 Riyad MAHREZ (Algeria)
2017 Mohamed SALAH (Egypt)
2018 Mohamed SALAH (Egypt)