Senegalese international El Hadj Diouf has been named as the player of 2001 by the African Football Confederation (Caf) at a ceremony in Johannesburg.
The exploits of the forward for both his country and his club have earned him the most prestigious award in African football.
He was instrumental in Senegal’s first ever qualification to the World Cup, and has played a major role in a successful season for French side RC Lens.
2001 – El-Hadji Diouf
2000 – Patrick Mboma
1999 – Nwankwo Kanu
1998 – Mustapha Hadji
1997 – Victor Ikpeba
1996 – Nwankwo Kanu
1995 – George Weah
The 21-year-old won the trophy with a total of 93 votes, which was 26 more than his nearest rival, Bayern Munich and Ghana’s Samuel Osei Kuffour.
Kuffour was disappointed after pre-ceremony comments that he would be a worthy recipient of the ultimate individual accolade for African footballers.
No defender has topped the poll since its introduction 32 years ago, although goalkeepers Thomas ‘Black Spider’ N’Kono of Cameroon (twice) and Badou Zaki of Morocco were previous winners.
Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o Fils placed third with 34 votes.
Diouf received the award from Caf President Issa Hayatou and then dedicated it to his mother who stood beside him on stage, and to the people of Senegal.
A bright future
At 21 Diouf’s profile has been boosted by the accolade and his Yugoslav agent Alexander Kristic said that although the player is likely to stay at Lens for another year, a move to the English premiership is the ultimate goal.
“El Hadj loves English football,” said Kristic. “But despite a lot of recent talk about a move, he’s sticking with Lens for now.”
The awards turned into a triple celebration for Senegal when the national team won team of the year, and the man leading them to the World Cup, Bruno Metsu, was named coach of the year.
Issa Hayatou’s campaign for the Fifa Presidency recieved a boost when several speakers endorsed his candidature against that of Sepp Blatter.
The most notable plaudit came from the President of the powerful South African FA, Molefi Oliphant.
In the spirit of President Thabo Mbeki’s calls for an “African rennaissance” he announced his support for the Cameroonian, and raised a laugh when he said he had not been bribed.
“We haven’t been bribed, but we are bribing,” said Oliphant, and explained that with Hayatou at the helm of Fifa, South Africa would stand a good chance of hosting the 2010 World Cup Finals.
South Africa had cause for celebration with Kaizer Chiefs judged the Club of the Year.
Champions League Player of the Year category was won by Angolan striker Flavio Amado.
-Footballer of the Year – El-Hadji Diouf (Sen)
-National team of the Year – Senegal
-Club of the Year – Kaizer Chiefs (Rsa)
-Coach of the Year – Bruno Metsu (Sen)
-Champions League Player of the Year – Flavio Amado (Petro Atletico/Ang)
-Young Player of the Year – Derek Boateng (Gha)
-Fair play award – Nigeria