ACCRA (AFP) – Ivory Coast is in a strong position to capture the CAF Footballer of the Year award on Thursday, with two of its stars, both past winners, nominated against an up-and-coming midfielder from Cameroon.
The prestigious finalist category includes Ivorians Didier Drogba of Shanghai Shenhua, Yaya Toure of Manchester City and Cameroon’s Alexandre Song, who plays for Barcelona, with the award to be handed out at a ceremony in Accra.
Midfielder Toure, 29, is the defending champion, while Drogba, 34, has won twice before. A third win would edge the striker closer to Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o's record four trophies.
A Drogba win would also mark the first time since the award was established in 1993 that two different players from the same country won in consecutive years.
The 25-year-old Song, a midfielder who is nominated for the first time, could derail Ivory Coast’s bid for CAF dominance after a season that included strong play for Arsenal before his transfer to Barcelona.
But the two Ivorians have padded their already impressive resumes over the last 12 months.
Drogba helped guide Chelsea to a Champions League victory and his national team to a narrow defeat in the finals at the African Cup of Nations.
Toure won the English Premier League title with Manchester City and also performed well at the African tournament.
The award ceremony comes with disappointment for the host country Ghana, which for the first time since 2004 does not have a national in the running for the continent’s top football honour.
Instead, Ghanaians will pin their hopes on their Under-17 women’s team, which is short-listed for women’s national team of the year against Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria’s Under-20 team.
Zambians lead in the category dedicated to players who compete for African clubs.
Midfielder Rainford Kalaba and centre back Stoppila Sunzu, both Zambians who play for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s TP Mazembe, are up against the Egyptian Mohamed Abourtreika of the Al-Ahly club.
The competition for the team of the year trophy features a rematch of the African Cup of Nations final, with Zambia nominated against Ivory Coast.
Up-and-coming Cape Verde is also contesting in the category after its best-ever season, during which it qualified for the next edition of the Cup of Nations.