Africa’s Best Footballing Moments in 2017

Cameroon wins bragging rights at AFCON 2017

The African cup of nations(AFCON) kicked off in Gabon with 16 finalists battling it out for one prize. Ivory Coast were holders of the trophy heading into the tournament and clearly one of the favorites alongside Gabon, Senegal, Algeria and Egypt. (change nations to reflect thes player changes). These nations are historically revered for their experience and star studded line ups with players lighting up the world’s major football leagues such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, and Mo Salah. We also saw some of the continents young starlets getting their feet wet in the competition with the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Keita Balde, and Christian Bassogog getting their AFCON debuts. But ultimately none of that mattered, as it was Cameroon’s time to steal the headlines. Hugo Broos fielded a young side who went past Burkina Faso, Senegal and Egypt to be crowned Africa cup of nations winners for the fifth time. The Indomitable Lions certainly redeemed their big brothers who failed to win a single game in the 2015 tournament. The next African champions are scheduled to be crowned in Cameroon 2019.

North Africans bossed the year

It certainly was the year of the Arabs on the continent who showed signs of revitalizing their place as Africa’s elite. It kicked off with 7 time African Champions, Egypt becoming 1st runners up in the AFCON finals after their latest appearance in the tournament dated back to 2010. Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca then won the CAF Champions League in an all North African final against Egypt’s Al Ahly for the first time in 25 years. The year capped off with North Africans winning 3 of the 5 spots to represent the continent at next year’s World Cup finals in Russia. Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal make up the list with notable absentees such as Ghana and Ivory Coast losing out to Egypt and Morocco in the group stages.

The emergence of Mo Salah

What a 2017 it was for Mohamed Salah! The Egyptian arrived at the Merseyside club, Liverpool for a record transfer for an African player of 42 million euros which was then eclipsed by the same club for the signature of Guinean ace, Naby Keita. Mo Salah had scored 34 goals and 24 assists for Roma in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 season, and scarily, his form has only improved. In a league considered the world’s toughest, he has scored 20 goals in all competitions at the half mark of the season, only Harry Kane is above him in the Premier League goals tally and Salah is not even an outright striker, as Klopp usually deploys him on the left side of Liverpool’s front three. His impact also spread to his national team, as he  helped the Pharaohs of Egypt reach the world cup finals for the first time since 1990 and was named BBC’s African Footballer of the year. He is also part of the 3 finalists for the CAF Best Player to be crowned in January 2018 together with teammate Sadio Mane and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. With such a pedigree, it is understandable when rumors linking Mohamed to clubs like Real Madrid surface.

TP Mazembe gives DRC something to smile about

DRC might be war torn because of the long standing dispute between the controversial president, Joseph Kabila’s government and rebels for the country’s rich mineral resources but its football stars certainly give the citizens something to cherish. The national team did put up a good show at the AFCON finals making it to the knockout stages and also in the world cup qualifiers where they finished second in a group marginally won by Tunisia. The Congolese scored the most goals in these qualifiers more than any other African team. They eventually got some silverware for their all-round performances in the CAF Confederation finals, a tournament for domestic club cup winners on the continent. TP Mazembe beat South Africa’s high flying SuperSport United in a thoroughly entertaining two-legged final to win the cup in two consecutive years. A lot of things might not be right on the continent but football certainly plays a huge role in healing nations.

George Weah wins Liberia’s presidency in a historic democratic election

The only African player to have won the much coveted Ballon d’Or (1995) and FIFA’s award for World Best Male player in the same year, 1 Champions League title, 2 Italian Serie A titles, a Ligue 1 title and now Mr. President! The Liberian is now undoubtedly one of the most influential men in football history. You don’t want to miss this full feature about Mister George here on FT Football.

Special

Ronaldo equals Messi’s record

The Portuguese star beat Lionel Messi and Neymar to the 2017 Ballon d’Or award equaling Messi’s record of 5 recognitions as the best player in the world. Christiano Ronaldo also won the inaugural FIFA BEST player award ahead of Messi and Neymar. Ronaldo helped Portugal win their first European title in 2016 and won 5 trophies with Real Madrid including the Champions League trophy, Club World cup and Spanish League gold. Messi and Ronaldo have officially dominated the football world for the past decade.

Kaka hangs his boots

“It was much more than I could ever imagined. Thank you!” he said. “I’m now ready for the next journey. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” – Kaka

On Sunday, the 17th of December 2017, the world woke up to this news on Twitter. The 35-year old Brazilian announced his retirement after a career that most people will remember. He joined AC Milan from Sao Paulo in 2003 where he spent six years where he helped Millan to Champions League success in 2007, scoring 10 goals in the process. He then transferring to Real Madrid for then record transfer fee of 56 million pounds. He won Spanish League title and the Copa Del Rey cup before returning to Millan in 2013 and then finishing his career in MLS at Orlando City.

Kaka is the last player to have won the Ballon d’Or in 2007 before Messi and Ronaldo took over the show. He now plans to return to AC Milan for an off the pitch role.

The Brazilian Magician might have not won as many individual trophies as Messi or Ronaldo but he certainly is a footballer that everyone will remember, not only for his immense skill, but also for his humility and influence off the pitch.