The Super Falcons of Nigeria may not have played a single match in over a year but that did not thwart Asisat Oshoala’s ascension to the revered throne reserved for the Queen of African football on Thursday at the Aiteo CAF Awards 2017.
It is the second time in a row and third time ever – all within a space of four years – that the 23-year-old striker has claimed the African Women’s Player of the Year accolade. She beat first-time nominee Chrestina Kgatlana (South Africa) and three-time nominee Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene (Cameroon) to the individual crown.
Oshoala was declared winner of the prestigious prize in a glittering awards gala held at the Accra International Conference Centre, Accra, Ghana, after polling the most votes from the members of the CAF Technical & Development Committee, CAF Media Experts Panel and Independent Media and TV Consultants.
She broke down in tears after receiving the award and said: “When I left Arsenal to China, people said my career was over. Here I am winning this award once again.
“To all the young girls out there, don’t let anyone talk you down. Always follow your dreams.”
Following her surprise move from Arsenal to Dalian Quanjian in February 2017, Oshoala took China by storm, leading her team to a league and cup double. She finished as the highest goal scorer in the Chinese Women’s Super League with 12 goals and was named ‘Best Striker of the season’.
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 4, 2018
Three going on four?
Asisat Oshoala is now one short of equalling the all-time record for the most African Women’s Player of the Year wins (four) which is held by fellow countrywoman, Perpetua Nkwocha, a legend of women’s football in Africa.
Nkwocha was named Africa’s best in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011. She last featured for the Super Falcons at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and was part of the Florence Omagbemi-led coaching crew that steered the team to an unprecedented eighth title at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2016.
Considering that Nkwocha won her last African Women’s Player of the Year accolade at the age of 35, one cannot look beyond Oshoala – who is only 23 – as the best bet to reach and surpass her record.
The common denominator that defined the final three-player shortlist for the 2017 African Women Player of the Year award is title(s). And this is one thing Malawi’s Tabitha Chawinga could not boast of in spite of her exploits in Sweden in the year under review.
The red-hot striker had a spectacular season such that she scored 26 goals in 22 matches to emerge top scorer in the Damallsvenskan en route to being nominated for two awards in the 2017 Swedish Football Awards and clinching one eventually; the Best Forward. She however could not save her team, Kvarnsveden, from relegation.
On the international scene, Malawi failed to make it out of the group stage in the COSAFA Women’s Championship 2017, but Chawinga still finished second in the top scorers chart.
Maybe if a title for either club or country had crowned her efforts, she probably could have been Oshoala’s biggest challenger for the African Women’s Player of the Year award.
Chawinga made the list of the top five nominees for the accolade – which also included Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Makore – but could not break into the top three.
The goal machine would be looking to replicate her heroics with new club Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Women’s Super League and it will be so interesting to see if she would pose any threat to Oshoala.
Speaking of titles, Chrestina Kgatlana was named Most Valuable Player in South Africa’s COSAFA Women’s Championship victory, while Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene, who like Oshoala did not taste action on the international scene, clinched the 2017 Russian Women’s Cup with CSKA Moskva.
The African Women’s Player of the Year was first awarded in 2001 and Nigeria has dominated it like they do the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The award was not given in 2009 and 2013.
Full list of Aiteo CAF awards 2017 Winners
Men’s Player of the Year: Mohamed Salah (Egypt/Liverpool)
Women’s Player of the Year: Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria/Dalian Quanjian)
Men’s Coach of the Year: Hector Cuper (Egypt)
Youth Player of the Year: Patson Daka (Zambia)
National Team of the Year: Egypt
Women’s National Team of the Year: South Africa
Club of the Year: Wydad Casablanca