Amro Alkado: Ali Adnan- Iraq.
What a breakout year for the 2013 Asian Young Player of The Year. The boy with the golden left foot lit up the U20 World Cup with his performances, leading several top clubs to chase him. He was eventually landed by Rizespor in the summer transfer window. However on the last day of that particular window (after some spectacular showings for the Turkish club), Napoli came in with an audacious 7 million Euro bid which was rejected. Expect him to move on to bigger challenges in the near future.
Maher Mezahi: There are a few players battling it out for this title. I would have to award Best Player to Emmanuel Emenike. Leading scorer of the AFCON and was instrumental in play-offs vs. Ethiopia.
Sam Crocker: Jonathan Pitroipa. Consistently an absolute delight to watch. Puts everything in every time he pulls on the Burkina Faso shirt, managing to well and truly run the show in every single game he plays in. Whilst he probably hasn’t been the best domestically, his Player of the Tournament award at the African Cup of Nations was well and truly deserved, as well as continuing his excellent form into World Cup qualifying. Shame we won’t see him at the World Cup. Honourary mention to Aristide Bance for making the football pitch a much better place.
Salim Masoud Said: Yaya Toure. If you judge the award by club and international consistency (bar a poor Afcon by his high standards, where it’s worth bearing in mind he was heavily strapped on one knee), then very few come close. With Drogba and Eto’o’s abilities waning, he’s the only genuine box-office African footballer at the moment. Offensively, he’s been absolutely outstanding for Man City this season.
James: Stephen Keshi. Again, similarly to Mikel, winning the Cup of Nations for Nigeria is an enormous achievement, especially considering the politics around it. We’ll see if he can convert that to a good performance in Brazil next summer.
Amro: Hakeem Shaker – Iraq
He guided his young charges to the semi finals of the U20 World Cup, and while his tactics can be infuriating at times, he created a siege mentality within the camp which saw his players rally around him. The granddad style dancing that ensued after each goal was superlative. His exploits with the Iraqi national team thereafter have led to criticisms from within his squad as well as outside, but the achievements in Turkey were extraordinary and cannot be discounted.
Maher: Hard to look past Keshi. He won the African Cup of Nations and qualified Nigeria to Brazil 2014; all of this while hamstrung by the incompetent Nigerian FA.
Sam: Stephen Keshi. Sorry to be unoriginal, but winning AFCON 2013 with the squad he had was a miraculously achievement in some difficult conditions. Hardly operating under the most secure conditions as an employee of the Nigerian FA, he made big decisions, dropped big players and got big rewards for doing so. Managed to get the best out of another one of my favourite players of the year, Emmanuel Emenike.
Salim: Stephen Keshi. He talked a lot during the Cup of Nations and his candour/borderline racism could have easily come back to haunt him, but he looked assured even when Nigeria’s situation was looking precarious and managed to lead a pretty inexperienced team to glory.
James: Youssef Msakni for Tunisia vs Algeria in the group stages of the Cup of Nations. Great goal at a great time. Sorry Maher.
Amro: Ali Adnan against Uruguay in the U20 World Cup…simply sublime:
Maher: Emmanuel Okwi vs. Angola, just because of the commentating. Brilliant goal, ab-so-lute-ly brilllliant!
Sam: Siybonga Sangweni vs. Morocco. Bit of a weird one, but provides some fond memories during that mental last set of match from their AFCON group. This goal pretty much summed it up, as the South African centre-back rolled it in with the inside of his foot from the edge of the area. Still to this day wonder why he was so far up the pitch on the last defender, but the finish was wonderful, and perfectly summed up an extraordinary evening.
James: Nigeria vs Italy. Mainly because we were there.
Amro: Not so much a best match as it was most memorable. But the Uzbekistan Vs Jordan 2nd leg Asian WCQ playoff in Tashkent was a standout. After being locked after extra time, penalties loomed, and in timely fashion the feed from the source was disrupted, leading to feverish speculation across the internet (us included). Jordan ended up 9-8 winners on penalties. Tense times!
Maher: Tunisia 3-0 Cape Verde. The match actually finished 0-2 in favour of the West Africans, and it was such a miraculous result. Shame about the technicalities.
Sam: Burkina Faso vs. Algeria – 1st leg. An incredible game of football, and one that I wish I had recorded so I could watch it over and over again. Rarely been more entertained in 90 minutes than in this match. Shout out to the friendly between Nigeria and Italy at Craven Cottage also for SFG attendance and true footballing entertainment reasons.
Salim: Three stand out. Ethiopia v Zambia was wonderful for the qualitatively and atmospherically. Burkina Faso v Algeria 1st leg was pretty dramatic too and utterly engrossing. But the winner has to be the Nigeria v Italy friendly at Craven Cottage where the SfG team were in attendance. There was a great atmosphere in a thoroughly entertaining game; seeing the absolute effortlessness of Andrea Pirlo with the naked eye was something else.
James: Burkina Faso at the Cup of Nations, particularly Alain Traore’s cameo; Nigeria-Italy again; Ghana’s performance against Egypt in the World Cup play-off.
-Iraq making the last four of the U20 World Cup was both spectacular and beautiful; being a whisker away from the final (they went out on penalties to Uruguay) added an extra level to the story that will surely live in footballing folklore in the country.
-Saudi Arabia seem like they could be on the rise again after making their Asian Cup Qualifying group look easy.
-Guangzhou Evergrande winning the Asian Champions League in style then performing well at their first Club World Cup in 2013.
Maher: Aboutrika retiring in style. The rise of the Walya Antelopes on the African scene. Watching Jonathan Pitroipa play at the level he has.
Sam: Aristide Bance’s panenka in the semi-final penalty shoot-out of AFCON against Ghana. Probably up there in my all-time football highlights, let alone this year. Every moment Aristide Bance was on the pitch was a highlight.
Salim: Tonny Mawejje and Emmanuel Okwi v Angola and the beautiful, beautiful commentator – “YOU. JUST. CANNOTBELIEVETHIS!” Ethiopia’s football. The improvement of Burkina Faso; Aristide Bance’s one-for-the-ages performance v Ghana (and his panenka in the shoot-out) and Jonathan Pitroipa’s razzle-dazzle in the green shirt. Abdoulaye Soulama’s face when he handballed outside the box versus Ethiopia. Didier Six running half the length of the pitch to celebrate Dove Wome’s goal v Algeria. Tanzania’s win over Morocco. Cheick Diabate’s equaliser v Benin.
James: Egypt’s performance against Ghana in the World Cup play-off; Burkina Faso not making the World Cup; Mohamed Aboutreika’s retirement
-Algeria being the only Arab Nation to qualify to the World Cup in Brazil.
-The West Asian Arab nations failed to make yet another World Cup. How long will this wait continue?
-The AFC still being intent on restricting access to the Asian Champions League-arguably weakening the tournament in the process.
Maher: Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa, DR Congo. So many promising teams that did not honour their billing. The ineligible player problem was also frustrating.
Sam: Burkina Faso not qualifying for the World Cup. Watching Cameroon employ 4 defensive midfielders in most of their qualifying matches. The fact that administrative errors denied Cape Verde a chance to qualify for the World Cup (as I think they probably would have beaten Cameroon).
Salim: Burkina Faso not qualifying for the World Cup. I’m still not over it; it’ll take a long time for me to get over that. The incessant administration errors during World Cup qualification.