NAIROBI, November 10 – A host of renowned sports personalities will grace the fifth edition of the 2008 Sports Personality of the Year (SOYA) gala night at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in January.
West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola, Italian football legend Roberto Baggio and former 800m World and Olympic champion Mario Mutola are among the guests expected to grace the fete.
An ex AC Milan, Juventus and Bologna striker, Baggio is regarded as one of the finest players of his generation and arguably one of the greatest free kick takers of all time.
He was capped 35 times for Italy.
Baggio is among the most technically gifted and popular players in the world throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He played for the Italian national team in three World Cups, and is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups.
He missed a penalty in the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which contributed to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil on penalties. He won both the European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or) and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1993.
Zola who was appointed the Hammers manager last month is among the galaxy of stars invited for the prestigious awards. He is renowned for his technique, skill and dribbling and beheld by many as one of the greatest players to ever grace the Premier League.
He spent the first decade of his career in Italy, most notably with Napoli alongside the legendary Argentinean Diego Maradona and Brazilian striker Careca and Parma, before moving to English side Chelsea, where he was voted Football Writers’ Player of the Year in 1997 and their greatest ever player.
Mutola is expected to attract a lot of interest from local fans.
The Maputo Express was the queen of two lap race for over a decade collecting an array of titles and records.
Despite losing at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan last year and the Olympic Games in Beijing, China this year, Mutola still commands great respect in the athletics world.
Mutola won the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and also bronze in the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
She won the World Championships in 1993 (Toronto), 2001 (Edmonton, Canada), 2003 (Paris, France) and silver in 1999 (Seville) with a bronze in Athens in 1997.
She also won the World Indoor Championships from 1993- 2006 and Commonwealth Games in 1998 and 2002.
Other big names that have graced the SOYA gala before are World marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie, Henrik Ramaala and Daniel Amokachi.