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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Eto'o joins the greats
By James Copnall
BBC West African football correspondent

Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o Fils is the latest in a long line of extraordinary footballers to be crowned African player of the year.

The striker, who was rewarded for a successful 2003 with club side Real Mallorca and the Indomitable Lions, replaces two-time winner El Hadji Diouf at the summit of the African game.

However, neither Eto'o nor Diouf can yet lay claim to be the biggest name to win the award.

Liberian George Weah was voted Africa's best three times, most notably in 1995 when he was also voted the top player in Europe and the World.

Weah is the only African to pick up all three prestigious titles.

Ghana's Abedi Pele is another man to win a hat-trick of African player of the year awards.

He won in three straight years, 1991-3, a fitting recompense for the Ghanaian as he inspired the Black Stars to the 1992 Nations Cup final and helped Marseille win the 1993 European Cup.

Cameroon's most famous footballing son Roger Milla has also been honoured as the best on the continent.

Eto'o's compatriot has the distinction of winning in 1976, and then 14 years later after his 1990 World Cup heroics.

Liberia's George Weah in action
Liberia's George Weah was African Player of the Year three times

Other Cameroonians to be honoured in the past were Theophile 'Doctor' Abega, Jean-Manga Onguene, Patrick Mboma and goalkeeper Thomas Nkono.

Nkono won twice, but is something of an anomaly in a roll of honour largely containing strikers and attacking midfielders.

The last non-attacking player to win was another keeper, Moroccan Badou Zaki, back in 1986.

Appropriately, the first winner was a striker, Mali's Salif Keita.

'Domingo', as he is known in Mali, scored goals wherever he went in Africa, Europe and North America, and finished the second best goalscorer in European football one season.

Eto'o can be justifiably proud of his 2003 season, but he has a long way to go to match up to some of the achievements of past winners.

The 2003 award has also continued the domination of players from north and west Africa with Kalusha Bwalya in 1988 the only player from southern Africa to win the coveted title.

Central Africa can boast two winners with Tshimen Bwanga from the then Zaire (now the DR Congo) winning in 1973 and then Paul Moukila from neighbouring Congo a year later.

Past African Footballers of the Year

Awarded by France Football magazine
1970 - Salif Keita (MLI)
1971 - Ibrahim Sunday (GHA)
1972 - Cherif Souleymane (GUI)
1973 - Tshimen Bwanga (DRC)
1974 - Paul Moukila (CGO)
1975 - Ahmed Faras (MAR)
1976 - Roger Milla (CMR)
1977 - Tarak Dhiab (TUN)
1978 - Abdul Razak (GHA)
1979 - Thomas Nkono (CMR)
1980 - Jean-Manga Onguene (CMR)
1981 - Lakhdar Belloumi (ALG)
1982 - Thomas Nkono ! (CMR)
1983 - Mahmoud al-Khatib (EGY)
1984 - Theophile Abega (CMR)
1985 - Mohamed Timoumi (MAR)
1986 - Badou Zaki (MAR)
1987 - Rabah Madjer (ALG)
1988 - Kalusha Bwalya (ZAM)
1989 - George Weah (LBR)
1990 - Roger Milla (CMR)
1991 - Abedi 'Pele' Ayew (GHA)
1992 - Abedi 'Pele' Ayew (GHA)
1993 - Abedi 'Pele' Ayew (GHA)
1994 - George Weah (LBR)

Awarded by Confederation of African Football (Caf)
1994 - Emmanuel Amunike (NGR)
1995 - George Weah (LBR)
1996 - Nwankwo Kanu (NGR)
1997 - Victor Ikpeba (NGR)
1998 - Mustapha Hadji (MAR)
1999 - Nwankwo Kanu (NGR)
2000 - Patrick Mboma (CMR)
2001 - El Hadji Diouf (SEN)
2002 - El Hadji Diouf (SEN)

Eto'o wins African award
30 Apr 04  |  African
Where now for Eto'o?
16 Apr 04  |  African
Five Africans make Pele's list
04 Mar 04  |  African
Eto'o tops Caf shortlist
19 Nov 03  |  African

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