AFRICA IS CALLING
Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo believes his maiden tour of duty as the association’s leader will be an opportunity to engage the counterparts from different parts of the continent.
Kamambo, who was voted into office last month, left for Senegal early yesterday morning to attend the CAF Awards which take place in Dakar tomorrow.
The ZIFA president is expected to rub shoulders with many high profile football personalities at the ceremony who include FIFA president Gianni Infantino, FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura, high-ranking CAF officials led by president Ahmad Ahmad and the leadership from the other football associations.
Former World Footballer of the Year George Weah, who is now President of Liberia, will also grace the event alongside invited Heads of State like Senegal’s Macky Sall and Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
Kamambo, who previously served as a ZIFA board member, told The Herald before his departure for Dakar that he anticipated the tour to provide the eye-opening experiences his board needs to build on ahead of their four-year mandate.
He is aware of the weight of expectations on his shoulders which will always be contrasted to the stints of those before him, including his immediate predecessor Philip Chiyangwa.
“As you know, we are still new in the office. This is an opportunity to engage and to learn how others are doing it in their own countries. So I will be leaving on Sunday (yesterday) and returning on Wednesday,” said Kamambo.
A host of other football luminaries are also expected in Senegal including legends of the game like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Michael Essien and Mohamed Aboutrika, who are expected to feature in an exhibition match to honour the late former Senegal great Jules Francois Bocande.
Kamambo will be among the guests at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium tonight as the Senegal Class of 2002, which reached the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, engage the CAF legends in honour of Bocande.
The former Lions of Teranga player and coach had a successful career in France and featured in three AFCON tournaments for his country. He died in 2012 during an operation in France.
CAF released a packed programme of events at the weekend and it was not clear whether Kamambo will have the opportunity to engage one-on-one with either FIFA president Infantino or Ahmad because of the busy schedule.
The two high-ranking officials were expected to have their own meeting yesterday with Ahmad set to address a press conference today after touring the infamous Goree Island, which is part of UNESCO World Heritage.
Zimbabwe’s Warriors were among the five candidates short-listed for the National Team of the Year award after making a flying start to the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.
Sunday Chidzambwa’s men, however, have since fallen by the wayside after they missed out on the final three which will see Madagascar, Mauritania and former winners Uganda battling it out for the honours.
Reigning Player of the Year Mohamed Salah, his Liverpool club-mate Sadio Mane and 2015 winner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, will compete to be named Best African Player of the Year at the Abdou Diouf International Conference Centre where the CAF Awards 2018 ceremony will take place tomorrow.
The trio have made the top three for the most prestigious individual accolade in African football in a repeat of last year.
Gabonese icon Aubameyang maintains his familiar status amongst the top three finalists since 2014 thus five times in a row and equalling the record of Ivorian legend and four-time Player of the Year, Yaya Toure (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and Ghanaian midfield supremo Michael Essien (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). The 29-year-old will be hoping to lay his hands on the enviable crown for the second time.
Salah (26) made history by becoming the first Egyptian to be decorated Player of the Year since the inception of the awards scheme in 1992. It is the second time he has made the final three and Salah has his eyes set on joining the elite league of players to win the honour back-to-back.
Senegalese El Hadji Diouf (2001, 2002), Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon (2003, 2004) and Toure (2011, 2012) are the only three to win successive titles.
It is a hat-trick for 26-year-old Mane in the top three, coming third in 2016 and second in 2017. He will be hoping to be third time lucky and become the second Senegalese to win the top-most individual honour after Diouf.
The day after the awards, the CAF Executive Committee will hold a crucial meeting to decide the fate of the hosting country for the AFCON 2019.
The event was supposed to take place in Cameroon but the West African country was stripped of the rights to host it after their preparations fell behind schedule. South Africa and Egypt are front-runners to replace it.