By Lamin Drammeh
Gambian striker Musa Barrow has been shortlisted for the best player of the year award in 2022 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The 23-year-old forward becomes the first Gambian footballer to have ever made the CAF nomination for the prestigious individual’s award – a historic accomplishment for the Bologna attacker who starred at the last Africa Cup of Nations for the Gambia.
Barrow netted two goals and provided two assists as he and his Scorpions teammates sealed a quarterfinal berth only in their first attempt, defying all odds to defeat powerhouses such as Tunisia and Guinea and a 1-1 draw with Mali. Their triumphant display in Cameroon saw them finish joint-top with Mali in group F with seven points from a possible nine.
The prolific forward Barrow was named Man of the match as Gambia defeated Mauritania 1-0 in their opening group F match help in Limbe. His remarkable run of impressive form during the AFCON has been rewarded with his inclusion in the 30-man preliminary shortlist for the continental top players’ nomination.
Equally, he was impressive in Bologna’s Serie A campaign last season, netting six times as the club finished 13th with 46 points in the 20-team league table.
Two other members of the Gambian team have been nominated in different categories for the CAF 2022 Awards. They are coach Tom Saintfiet, and defender James Gomez, who got nominated for the Coach of the year and young player of the year awards respectively – while the Gambia’s scorpions received the National Team of the Year nomination in recognition of their historic performance in Cameroon.
Other big names in the 30-player preliminary nomination include; Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who plies his trade for the English premier league side, Chelsea. Mendy was named Best Goalkeeper after keeping clean sheets in three of his five appearances, having missed Senegal’s first two games in the group stage due to the Coronavirus infection.
Previous winner Mohamed Salah of Egypt & Liverpool has also made the 30-man preliminary list along with his Reds teammate Naby Keita from Guinea. Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez who plays as a winger for English Premier League champion Manchester City has also been named.
But the favorite for this year’s award is the 2019 winner Sadio Mane from Senegal. Mane scored the decisive penalty in dramatic shootouts to guide the Teranga Lions to their first Africa cup of nations title in their history.
He recently eclipsed the previous holder of an all-time country’s record-scorer Henri Camara – with his hat-trick in their 3-1 demolition of Benin and another goal against Rwanda to become the Teranga Lion’s highest-scorer in international football with 33 goals.
His last AFON display where he won the player of the tournament in Cameroon has made him the overwhelming favorite to win the award once again. He will become the first Senegalese footballer to win the CAF best player award twice.
The former Liverpool danger-man spent a glittering six years with the Reds – for whom he won every major title available to him namely: Premier League, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and UEFA Super cup.
Mane recently completed a record-breaking transfer move to Bayern Munich to become an all-time Africa’s highest-paid footballer. He will take home a staggering £250,000 per week at Bayern after signing a three-year contract with the Bavarian outfit.
However, the 30-year-old Senegalese superstar could face stiff competition from former Liverpool teammate Mo Salah & Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar, whose eight goals were the second-most at a single Africa Cup of Nations in the tournament’s history.
This year’s edition of the prestigious CAF Awards will be held in Morocco on July 22.
The Author, Lamin Drammeh is the former Sports Editor of The Point