Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Eto'o gets African Player of the Year Award, again

AFP , DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA

Cameroon and Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o was named African Footballer of the Year for the second time on Tuesday.

The announcement came as no surprise because Eto'o told team-mates of his impending triumph after a friendly against Senegal in France last week and journalists overheard the conversation.

But the result will be a bitter blow to Nigerian football followers who believed veteran midfielder Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha would win after being voted top player of the 2004 African Nations Cup in Tunisia.

Eto'o could not receive the award personally at a lavish ceremony in the Indian Ocean city as he was scheduled to play in a charity match in Barcelona later Tuesday for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster last December.

In a repeat of last year, the other finalists were Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba and Okocha, who play for English Premiership clubs Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers, respectively.

While Eto'o failed to sparkle in a disappointing Cameroon team at the Nations Cup, he has been outstanding for Spanish league leaders Barcelona, scoring 17 goals in 23 appearances this season.

Brazilian superstar and reigning World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho was glowing in his praise of Barca team-mate Eto'o this week.

"Samuel is undoubtedly the most dangerous attacking player in the Spanish championship and often makes the difference when Barcelona face other leading clubs," Ronaldinho boasted.

Eto'o is only the fourth African star after Ghana midfielder Abedi "Pele" Ayew, Liberia striker George Weah and Senegal striker El Hadji Diouf to win the Footballer of the Year title in successive years.

He helped Cameroon win the African Nations Cup in 2000 and 2002 and the 2000 Sydney Olympics football tournament, and was a member of the Mallorca team that won the Spanish Cup two years ago.

Nigeria received some consolation by winning five awards with three going to Enyimba, who last December became only the second club to successfully defend the African Champions League title.

Goalkeeper Victor Enyeama was named Champions League Goalkeeper of the Year, Okey Emordi won the African Coach of the Year category and the African Club of the Year award went to the side from the south-east town of Aba.

Other Nigerians to be honored were Obafemi Martins from Italian club Inter Milan, who won the African Young Footballer of the Year award for the second consecutive year, and African Woman Footballer of the Year Perpetua Nkwocha.

African Nations Cup winners Tunisia were honored twice with the Carthage Eagles taking the Team of the Year title while veteran Ali Boumnijel was selected African Goalkeeper of the Year.

South African Benni McCarthy won the African Goal of the Year award for his looping header that earned Porto of Portugal a home win over Manchester United in a 2004 European Champions League tie.

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