ABUJA: Algeria forward Riyad Mahrez was Thursday voted African Footballer of the Year after he inspired Leicester City to the English Premier League title last season. Mahrez, 25, beat Gabon skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scooped the prestigious accolade last year, into second place, with Senegal star Sadio Mane, who features for Liverpool, taking third place.
The France-born forward said it was an honor to be named the best African player for the past year. “It’s a huge honor, I am happy and pleased. I thank all my teammates at Leicester and Algeria,” Mahrez said as he received the award. “I dedicate this to my family and all those who support me every day.” Leicester caused a major shock when as 5,000-1 outsiders they went on to win the Premier League last season. Mahrez, a slightlybuilt, right-sided forward who started out with hometown club AAS Sarcelles in 2004, played a key role in the Foxes’ stunning run with 17 goals, 10 assists in 37 appearances.
He was the first Algerian to win a Premier League champions medal and sparked a massive following back home in Algeria for the club, who he had first thought was a rugby team when he was contacted to join them four years ago. Mahrez’s win ended a 19-year absence on the podium for a player from north Africa since Morocco’s Mustapha Hadji in 1998. Other Algerians to have won the award were Rabah Madjer in 1987 and Lakhdar Belloumi in 1981.
All three players who made the shortlist for the African Footballer of the Year were also picked in CAF XI that also features Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly from Manchester United. Goalkeeper Denis Onyango was picked for the African Player of the Year Based in Africa award ahead of Mamelodi Sundowns teammate Khama Billiat and Zambia’s Rainford Kalaba. Onyango was outstanding when seven-time South African champions Sundowns won an historic CAF Champions League and also when Uganda qualified for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations after a long absence. — AFP