The nominees for the African Footballer of the Year award for 2016 were announced on the 12th of November at an event held at BBC Broadcasting House in central London.
On the shortlist are Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast and Manchester City), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon and Borussia Dortmund), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria and Leicester City), Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal) and André Ayew (Ghana and West Ham).
Broadcast live on air, the event was hosted by Peter Okwoche with a panel of guests that included Eniola Aluko (England and Chelsea), Lomana LuaLua (Congo) and Steven Pienaar (South Africa and Sunderland) to an audience of largely media guests.
Okwoche explained the selection process to Okayafrica: “We asked our [BBC] journalists in all African countries to come up with their top three players over the past year. We collated all these names and chose the five players with the highest number of votes for the shortlist.”
As for the criteria, “we asked the journalists to look at form for both club and country. We asked them not to count the amount of goals scored because we want to include defenders and goalkeepers.”
The English Premier League is the most watched of all leagues on the African continent and as a result, African players who’re based there are likely to be favoured by the voting public over those based in other countries. Okwoche agrees and adds “if you ask fans on the continent for five players of African origin playing in Spain or Portugal, I’m sure they’ll struggle.”
Evidently, four of the five players on the list are in the English Premier League. The fifth, Aubameyang, was the 2015-2016 Player of the Year in Germany’s Bundesliga and Gabon’s highest goal scorer of all time. “Aubameyang is a fantastic player. Many believe he should have won it last year but that’s their opinion. It shows you how well he’s doing that despite playing in a different league he’s still on the list,” Okwoche said.
Toure has had a fairly quiet season so far under new manager Pep Guardiola and voting is based on current form. “Don’t forget that last year he took Ivory Coast to Nations Cup victory. Also, he’s a great player and great personality and fans just love him.”
Voting is open here until 1800 GMT on Monday 28 November 2016. The winner of the BBC African Footballer of the Year 2016 will be revealed 12 December live on BBC Focus on Africa TV and radio, starting from 17:35 GMT.