By Robson Sharuko
Harare – A rising teenage Zambian footballer, a powerful Zimbabwean female football star, who is creating waves around the world, and a referee, who is transforming himself into one of the very best match officials in the game and could be on his way to the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, have all been shortlisted for the prestigious 2017 CAF Awards show set for January next year.
Patson Daka, the 19-year-old Zambian football sensation, who dominated the CAF Under-20 Championships, earlier this year, where he was named Player of the Tournament after helping his country win the title for the first time in their history, has been shortlisted for the CAF Young Player of the Year.
The Junior Chipolopolo illuminated the CAF Under-20 Championships with a breath-taking show of attacking football in their backyard and were deserved winners with Daka playing a leading role in that campaign as he led their strike force with aplomb.
He scored four goals during that tournament and ended up tied with his teammate Edward Chilufya and South African hotshot Luther Singh on the top goal-scorers’ charts while he was the runaway winner for the Golden Ball given to the best player of the show.
Daka also inspired his team to a good run at the FIFA Under-20 World Championships in South Korea where Zambia topped their group after beating Portugal 2-1 and handing Iran a 4-2 thrashing with the teenage forward among the scorers in that match.
The Zambians then stunned the world when they beat global football powerhouse Germany 4-3 after extra-time in their Round of 16 showdown and came within two minutes of reaching the semi-finals of the tournament when Frederico Dirmarco equalised for the Italians in the 88th minute of their pulsating quarter-final battle.
The prolific Daka, who has now joined Austrian side, FC Liefering, in what many believe is just a stepping stone in a journey to greatness, which will see him being signed by some of the biggest clubs in Europe, had scored one of the Zambian goals in that match which the Italians went on to win 3-2 after extra-time.
“It’s really a great honour for me, one which I thank God for,” Daka told the Zambian media after CAF unveiled their shortlist of players for the 2017 CAF Young Player of the Year on Monday night.
“I’m privileged to be nominated for such an award knowing that the help and the support of my teammates, technical team, and everyone has been vital and my efforts have been recognized at the end of the year.
“The nomination itself is a great festive gift.”
He then turned to his Facebook page to thank God for his progress.
“All the glory belongs to you Lord. Thanks to all my teammates, technical team, family, friends, fans and everyone for all the support without you this wouldn’t have been possible. #BolaNaLesa. Nike Football,” said Daka on his Facebook page.
Zambian footballer Clifford Mulenga was named the CAF Young Player of the Year exactly 10 years ago.
South African striker Singh is also in the running for the CAF Young Player of the Year award after a breakthrough season for him in which he ended up being signed by a Portuguese side while the others in the running for the award are Eric Ayiah, Krepin Diatta and Salam Giddou.
The Junior Chipolopolo side, the first Zambian team to be crowned African Under-20 champions, was also named in the Team of the Year category.
The CAF Awards Gala will take place on 4 January 2018, in Accra, Ghana.
Rutendo Makore, the bustling forward who scored 10 goals for the Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe to win the Golden Boot at the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championships in Bulawayo, where a goal-feast was served with 101 goals being scored in 22 matches, has been shortlisted for the CAF Women Player of the Year.
Makore was the star of the COSAFA Women’s Championships in Bulawayo this year in which she tore apart defences on her way to scoring 10 goals for the Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe who eventually lost in the final against bitter rivals Banyana Banyana of South Africa.
The striker had scored Zimbabwe’s equaliser in that final before a capacity crowd at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo before a late goal helped the South Africans power their way to a dramatic victory.
Rutendo will battle Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria and Dalian Quanjian), Chrestina Kgatlana (South Africa and UWC Ladies), Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene (Cameroon and CSKA Moscow) and Tabitha Chawinga (Malawi and Kvarnsvedens) for the big award.
Her exploits have already seen her joining Spanish side Sprotung Club de Heulva on a provisional six-month contract, which could be extended for a long-term deal should she impress.
CAF has also shortlisted the Mighty Warriors and Banyana Banyana for the Women’s Team of the Year award.
Winners will be decided by votes from the members of the CAF Technical and Development Committee, the CAF Media Experts Panel and Independent Media and TV Consultants although the CAF Referees’ Committee will elect the Referee of the Year.
Janny Sikazwe, the rising Zambian referee who appears to be on his way to the World Cup in Russia next year after being shortlisted by FIFA among a panel of match officials who will undergo a training regime and tests in preparation for the tournament, has been shortlisted as one of the Referees of the Year.
Sikazwe will battle against Bamlak Tessema from Ethiopia, Ghead Grisha (Egypt), Malang Diedhiou (Senegal), Mahdi Abid Charef (Algeria) and Papa Bakary Gassama (Gambia) for the big award.
Sikazwe was handed the responsibility to take charge of the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup final between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers of Japan last December and handled the final of the 2017 AFCON Cup between Cameroun and Egypt, which was won by the Indomitable Lions in Gabon.
The battle for the Coach of the Year award will feature Gernot Rohr (Nigeria), Hector Cuper (Egypt), Hugo Broos (Cameroon), L’Hussein Amoutta (Wydad Athletic Club) and Mihayo Kazembe (TP Mazembe).