Mohamed Salah receives the Player of the Year award from Liberian president George Weah in January 2019. Photo: EPA/STR
Mohamed Salah receives the Player of the Year award from Liberian president George Weah in January 2019. Photo: EPA/STR
Football writer Minenhle Mkhize.
Football writer Minenhle Mkhize.

DURBAN – It is very difficult to believe that there’s been only one Africa-based footballer who has captured the Fifa Footballer of the Year award in the history of the beautiful game.

But it is the sad reality.

The incumbent president of Liberia, George Weah, is the only player to scoop the most prestigious gong in world football.

Weah was menacing during his heyday. He was an entertainer of note. Weah would dance around the field. He was a special player, and marvellous to watch. Defenders were scared of him. Weah was lethal in front of goal - as players in France and Italy can tell you, where he made his name for the likes of Monaco and AC Milan.

In 1995, he walked away with the Footballer of the Year gong. Unfortunately, there’s no other African footballer who has managed to match Weah, even though the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba have come close.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have an opportunity to emulate Weah, however.

They have been difficult to stop for Liverpool in the English Premier League, and they both enjoyed a great season with the Reds.

The pair were unfortunate to miss out on the English Premier League title this past season. Liverpool finished second on the log behind Manchester City, despite losing only game during the season. The consolation for Mane and Salah was sharing the Golden Boot award.

But at least the two African sons propelled Liverpool to glory in the Uefa Champions League. They played pivotal roles in that success.

Now they need to show some consistency by inspiring their countries to greatness.

Sadio Mane of Senegal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Senegal and Algeria. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The Africa Cup of Nations is under way in Egypt. If Mane or Salah can play a central role in helping their country to glory, they will stand a better chance of getting nominated for the World Footballer of the Year.

Salah has already scored for Egypt in two matches. Egypt have notched up two victories in two games, which has secured them a place in to the next round of the competition.

It’s been a bit of mixed tournament so far for Mane. He wasn’t eligible to play in the first game and couldn’t inspire Senegal to victory in the second game as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Algeria. Now Mane has to deliver.

Both Mane and Salah have age on their side, and I firmly believe that they can make all of us on the continent proud by following in the footsteps of Weah.

@Minenhlecr7

 

The Mercury

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