DAKAR: Mohamed Salah completed a memorable day for Egyptian football by retaining his African Player of the Year award in Senegal on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old Liverpool star finished first with club-mate Senegalese Sadio Mane and Arsenal and Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the other finalists.
“I have dreamt of winning this award since I was a child and now I have done so twice in a row,” Salah said soon after receiving his trophy in Dakar. “My thanks go to my family, my team-mates and my fans and I dedicate this trophy to my homeland, Egypt.”
It was an identical outcome to last year when Salah became only the second Egyptian after 1983 winner Mahmoud al Khatib to be voted the best footballer in Africa.
Egypt crushed sole rivals South Africa 16-1 earlier on Tuesday in a CAF executive committee vote in Dakar to decide which country succeeded Cameroon as 2019 Cup of Nations hosts.
Delays to preparations and concerns about security resulted in the central African nation being replaced as hosts, and they will stage the 2021 tournament instead.
Salah will undoubtedly be the face of Egypt’s African Cup in June and July, but Egypt’s organisers face a tough task to get ready with kickoff only five months away. Deepening the challenge for the stand-in host country, this will be the first African championship to be increased from 16 to 24 teams.
The tournament also arrives in Egypt at a time of political unease after years of turmoil following a revolution and the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Egypt’s streets have been marred by deadly violence in the years since and it has sometimes spilled over onto the football field.
In 2012, more than 70 fans were killed in a riot at a game in the northern city of Port Said, one of world football’s worst riots. Port Said has been put forward by Egyptian organisers as a venue.
Still, African football leaders decided that Egypt was the best choice, with doubts over whether the competing bid from South Africa, the 2010 World Cup hosts, had any government approval or financial backing.
The other male awards went to France-born Morocco coach Herve Renard, the Mauritania national team, and Moroccan Achraf Hakimi in the youth category.
South African Chrestinah Kgatlana was voted Women’s Player of the Year and South Africa coach Desiree Ellis and the Nigeria national team were the other female winners.
The Goal of the Year award also went to Kgatlana.