Mane and Salah rekindle rivalry for Africa’s highest honor

Another chapter in the head-to-head rivalry between former Liverpool teammates Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will play out Thursday in Rabat when the winners of the annual Africa Prize will be announced.

Mane was a key figure in the Senegal squad that beat captain Salah Egypt in the 2021/2022 Africa Cup of Nations final and the 2022 World Cup playoffs.

Both the decisive African title in Cameroon and the elimination of Qatar in Senegal were won by Teranga Lions after a penalty shoot-out.

Mane scored in every shootout, and the final was decided before Salah could hit, and he scored in the playoffs.

The success of the Senegalese made Mane favorite for a second consecutive Player of the Year award after 2019 – the next two draws were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If Mane wins in the Moroccan capital, he will become the first Bayern Munich star to be named the best African footballer.

The closest a player from the German giants came to victory was in 1999 and 2001, when the Ghanaian Samuel Kuffour finished second.

Mane joined Bayern last month on a three-year deal after joining Liverpool in 2016 from Southampton and Anfield boss Jurgen Klopp calls him a “complete striker”.

“My only criticism of Sadio is that maybe sometimes he’s the only one who doesn’t realize how good he is.”

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson welcomed the 30-year-old’s predatory instincts: “Whenever he’s in front of the net, you don’t think he’s going to miss.”

Salah lifted the award in 2017 and 2018, and Mane’s victory the following year brought the number of winners from Liverpool to four, with another Senegalese, El Hadji Diouf, leading the 2002 vote.

– South Africans dominate female candidates –

The Egyptian had an outstanding 2021-2022 season for the Reds, sharing the Golden Boot award with Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min of South Korea.

Salah was voted the Premier League Player of the Season by both the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football Journalists’ Association.

Algerian captain and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez is another former winner among the 10 nominees, who took first place in 2016 after helping underdogs Leicester City win the Premier League title.

However, Mahrez and Algeria have struggled of late, with the defending champions making a humiliating first-round exit in the Nations Cup before losing to Cameroon in the World Cup playoffs.

The 10 Club Player of the Year candidates include Brazil’s Thiago Azulao, whose seven goals in the CAF Champions League sent Angolan side Petro Luanda to an unexpected spot in the semi-finals.

South Africans dominate the Women’s Player of the Year category with 2018 winner Thembi Kgatlana, Andile Dlamini, Refilo Jane and Bambanani Mbane among the top 10 contenders.

Ghana, conspicuously absent from the ongoing Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco after losing a first-round qualifier against Nigeria, has two representatives, Evelyn Badu and Doris Boaduwaa.

Nigeria, which has been the powerhouse of women’s football in Africa for decades, has one candidate, multi-award-winning Asisat Oshoala, who plays for runners-up Barcelona in the 2022 European Champions League.

Oshoala, ruled out of the Nations Cup in Morocco with an injury, has been named African Player of the Year four times, most recently in 2019.

The selection of the best women’s team will be postponed until Saturday’s Cup of Nations final between Morocco and South Africa in Rabat.

The winners are chosen by African football legends, members of the CAF technical committee, coaches and captains of the national teams and selected clubs, and selected media.