Yekini, Amunike, Kanu… See Nigeria’s Past Winners Of CAF African Footballer Award Before Osimhen

Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen recently won the African Male Footballer of the Year award, ending a long drought for Nigeria. Despite Nigeria’s prominence in African football, the men’s football team had failed to earn the same honours as their female counterparts.

Nigeria had been a regular winner of the award since its inception in 1992, but they had recently experienced a dry spell.

Nigeria won the award five times in the first seven years. Here is a list of past winners before Osimhen.

1. Rashidi Yekini: 1993

The late Nigerian striker, Rashidi Yekini, was the first Nigerian player to win the prestigious African Player of the Year award. He earned this title due to his impressive goalscoring performance for both his club and country in 1993. Nigerian fans affectionately referred to him as the “Goal’s father.” Yekini scored a career-high 34 goals for Portuguese side Vitória de Setúbal during the 1992/93 season, which helped the club secure promotion to the elite division. He also scored vital goals for Nigeria during the World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers, which contributed to his win of the CAF Award. In 1994, he came third in the same award category.

2. Emmanuel Amuneke: 1994

The Super Eagles winger replaced Yekini as the African Footballer of the Year due to his exceptional performances for Sporting CP of Portugal and El Zamalek of Egypt. He also played a vital role in Nigeria’s win at the 1994 African Cup of Nations held in Tunisia. Amuneke’s impressive displays for the Super Eagles in Nigeria’s debut FIFA World Cup campaign, held in the USA in 1994, were also noteworthy. He finished second in the award in 1995.

3. Victor Ikpeba: 1997

“The Prince of Monaco”, as Ikpeba is fondly called by Nigerian football fans, emerged as Africa’s best player in 1997 due to his outstanding performances for both club and country. The former Eagles’ striker took the French Ligue 1 by storm, scoring 13 goals and helping Monaco to secure the league title in the 1996/97 season. During the 1996/97 UEFA Cup playing for Monaco, Ikpeba emerged as the second-highest scorer with seven goals, following Maurizio Ganz who scored eight goals. He also played a key role in Nigeria’s qualification campaign for the 1998 World Cup.

4. Nwankwo Kanu: 1996 and 1999

Kanu Nwankwo, popularly known as ‘Papilo’, holds the distinction of being the only Nigerian footballer to have won the CAF African Footballer of the Year award twice, in 1996 and 1999. After playing an instrumental role in Ajax’s victory in the 1995 UEFA Champions League, Kanu moved to Inter Milan in 1996. However, it was his performance in leading Nigeria to win the football gold medal at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics that truly helped him clinch the CAF top award in 1996. His memorable brace against Brazil in the semi-final comeback win further cemented his place as one of the greatest Nigerian footballers of all time.

After surviving a career-threatening heart defect, Kanu moved to Arsenal in February 1999 where he revived his football career. His exploits for The Gunners were largely responsible for his second CAF award with his 17-minute hat-trick in the 3-2 win against Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge being the biggest highlight of his season. He was also outstanding for the Eagles all through the qualifiers for the year 2000 African Cup of Nations. Kanu is still regarded as the Golden Boy of Nigerian football


On Monday, Victor Osimhen made history by becoming the first Nigerian male to win the CAF award in 24 years. The 24-year-old footballer had a successful 2023 season that started with his leading Napoli to their first Italian Serie A title in 30 years. Osimhen was also a key player for Nigeria during the AFCON 2024 qualification campaign, scoring ten goals and finishing as the top scorer in the series.

To add to his achievements, Osimhen was ranked eighth in the world at the 2023 Ballon d’Or, making him the first Nigerian footballer to be named in the top ten of the prestigious award. In the same vein, Asisat Oshoala, a Nigerian footballer, has become the winner of the African Women’s Footballer of the Year award for a record-extending sixth time. The 29-year-old played an integral part in the Nigerian team, which remained unbeaten in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Oshoala scored a goal in a 3-2 triumph over co-hosts Australia and also played in draws against Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and England. However, Nigeria was knocked out of the competition by England in a penalty shootout. At the club level, Oshoala had a remarkable season for Barcelona, helping the Catalan club secure the Spanish Liga F and the UEFA Women’s Champions League titles.

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