NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 1- Despite struggling to find his footing in club football with Chinese side Guizhou Zhicheng and now Spanish club Girona, Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga has been shortlisted for the CAF African Player of the year award.
Olunga was named in the final shortlist of 30 players released on Wednesday evening by the continental football body with Stars skipper Victor Wanyama missing, having been a consistent figure in the final shortlist over the past few years.
The 23-year old former Gor Mahia, Tusker FC and Thika United marksman had a brilliant season last year with Swedish side Djugardens, scoring 14 goals in 39 appearances.
However, once he moved to China with top tier side Zhicheng, he failed to replicate his goal-scoring form and the new foreign quota introduced by the Chinese league managers meant he fell out of favor with the coaches.
The forward has since joined Girona in the Spanish La Liga on loan and has featured in three matches so far though he is yet to open his goals account.
On the national team, Olunga has been a different player altogether and has scored both of Harambee Stars’ goals in the last four matches. He scored in the 2-1 defeat to Sierra Leone in an African Cup of Nations Qualifier, then found the back of a net in a similar defeat to Iraq in a friendly match.
Overall, the goal scoring machine, who helped Gor Mahia to win the Kenyan Premier League title unbeaten in 2015, has scored 15 goals for the national team in 29 appearances, averaging one goal every two matches.
Olunga will contest for the top award with Liverpool and Egyptian wizard Mohammed Salah who looks to be the favorite having performed superbly for club and country.
Salah has not only been instrumental for his club Liverpool since he joined in the summer from Roma but scored the goal that took Egypt to their first World Cup since 1990. Salah was also instrumental in Egypt’s run to the African Cup of Nations final early this year.
Other notable names in the final shortlist of 30 include Gaborn’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who plays for Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Manchester United’s Ivorian defender Erick Bailly and Egyptian legendary keeper Essam El Hadary who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia.
Mamelodi Sundown’s Percy Tau and Tunisia’s Ali Maaloul are the only two African based players nominated for the top award. They have also been shortlisted for the African Player of the Year based in Africa award.
Ugandan keeper and captain Dennis Onyango who won the gong last year has been nominated once again. Other Eastern Africans nominated include Onyango’s national teammate Geoffrey Sserenkuma of KCCA, Sudan duo of Elsamani Saadeldin (Al Mereikh) and Nasr Eldin Ahmed (Al Hilal Obeid), and Ethiopia’s Saladin Said who plays for St. George.
The winner will be decided by votes from the Head Coaches/Technical Directors of the National Associations affiliated to CAF, members of the CAF Technical and Development Committee and a panel of Media Experts.
The Awards Gala will be held on January 4 next year in Accra, Ghana.
African Player of the Year
- Ali Maaloul (Tunisia & Al Ahly), 2. Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso & Lyon), 3. Cedric Bakambu (DR Congo & Villareal), 4. Christian Atsu (Ghana & Newcastle), 5. Christian Bassogog (Cameroon & Henan Jianye), 6. Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns), 7. Eric Bailly (Cote d’Ivoire & Manchester United), 8. Essam El Hadary (Egypt & Al Taawoun), 9. Fabrice Ondoa (Cameroon & Sevilla), 10. Fackson Kapumbu (Zambia & Zesco), 11. Jean Michel Seri (Cote d’Ivoire & Nice), 12. Junior Kabananga (DR Congo & Astana), 13. Karim El Ahmadi (Morocco & Feyenoord), 14. Keita Balde (Senegal & Monaco), 15. Khalid Boutaib (Morocco & Yeni Malatyaspor), 16. Mbwana Samata (Tanzania & Genk), 17. Michael Olunga (Kenya & Girona), 18. Mohamed Salah (Egypt & Liverpool), 19. Moussa Marega (Mali & Porto), 20. Naby Keita (Guinea & RB Leipzig), 21. Percy Tau (South Africa & Mamelodi Sundowns), 22. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon & Borussia Dortmund), 23. Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool), 24. Thomas Partey (Ghana & Atletico Madrid), 25. Victor Moses (Nigeria & Chelsea), 26. Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon & Porto), 27. William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria & Bursaspor), 28. Yacine Brahimi (Algeria & Porto), 29. Youssef Msakni (Tunisia & Al Duhail), 30. Yves Bissouma (Mali & Lille).
African Player of the Year – Based in Africa
- Achraf Bencharki (Morocco & Wydad Athletic Club), 2. Ahmed Fathi (Egypt & Al Ahly), 3. Alkhaly Bangoura (Guinea & Etoile du Sahel), 4. Ali Maaloul (Tunisia & Al Ahly), 5. Aristide Bance (Burkina Faso & Al Masry), 6. Ayman Majid (Morocco & FUS Rabat), 7. Aymen Mathlouthi (Tunisia & Etoile du Sahel), 8. Ben Malango (DR Congo & TP Mazembe), 9. Dean Furman (South Africa & Supersport United), 10. Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns), 11. Elsamani Saadeldin (Sudan & Al Merreikh), 12. Fackson Kapumbu (Zambia & Zesco), 13. Fawzi Chaouchi (Algeria & MC Alger), 14. Geoffrey Serunkuma (Uganda & KCCA), 15. Jeremy Brockie (New Zealand & Supersport), 16. Junior Ajayi (Nigeria & Al Ahly), 17. Karim Aouadhi (Tunisia & CS Sfaxien), 18. Mohamed Meftah (Algeria & USM Alger), 19. Mohamed Ounnajem (Morocco & Wydad Athletic Club), 20. Muaid Ellafi (Libya & Ahly Tripoli), 21. Nasr Eldin Ahmed (Sudan & Hilal Obeid), 22. Oussama Darfalou (Algeria & USM Alger), 23. Percy Tau (South Africa & Mamelodi Sundowns), 24. Sabelo Ndzinisa (Swaziland & Mbabane Swallows), 25. Saber Khalifa (Tunisia & Club Africain), 26. Saladin Said (Ethiopia & Saint George), 27. Sylvain Gbohouo (Cote d’Ivoire & TP Mazembe), 28. Tady Etekiama (DR Congo & AS Vita), 29. Taha Yassine Khenissi (Tunisia & Esperance), 30. Tarek Hamed (Egypt & Zamalek).