Victor Osimhen has been crowned the 2023 African Footballer of the Year in a momentous event that solidified his status as one of the best players in the world.
Osimhen saw off competition from Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi and Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah.
Monday’s award capped off a sterling year for the Super Eagles forward whose historic feat in the imperial Moroccan city of Marakesh ended Nigeria’s 24-year-old wait for Africa’s top individual prize. Legendary Kanu Nwankwo was the last Nigerian to win the award and that was in 1999.
At the event, a smiling Osimhen hailed the impact of Nigerian legend Emmanuel Amuneke, who coached him at the U-17 level, as well as fans from the country among others.
“First of all, I want to say thank you to God for everything. Special thanks go to Mr. Emmanuel Amunike; without him, I don’t think I would be standing in front of you guys holding one of the most prestigious awards in world football,” he told the gathering of the creme-de-la-creme of African football and beyond.
“It’s a dream come true for me. I want to thank everyone who has seen me through life’s journey. In achieving my dreams, in achieving my goals.
“I appreciate Nigerians for their support; I appreciate Africa for putting me on the map, for encouraging me, and for defending me regardless of my shortcomings.
“I also thank Emmanuel Adebayo for his encouragement. Solomon Kalu, I appreciate you. And every African legend that I have looked up to while growing up has inspired me. Didier Drogba, my role model, thank you so much. God bless you all.”
The prize is a recognition of Osimhen’s exploits for his Napoli club side and the national team where he is a key member. He spearheaded the Italian team’s unprecedented Serie A title run, scoring 26 goals in the league to become the first African to win the Pichichi (top scorer) award. His contribution broke George Weah’s record as the highest-scoring player from the continent in the Italian top flight.
Napoli last won the Scudetto 33 years ago during the legendary Diego Maradona’s era. For the 2022/23 campaign, the former Lille striker’s impeccable form saw him included in the Serie A Team of the Year as he also clinched the Best Striker prize.
Osimhen’s ranking in the 2023 Ballon d’Or was a testament to his contributions to the Serie A team’s epochal showing. He was ninth, becoming the highest-ranked African for the year and the most-ranked Nigerian in the history of the award.
Earlier in the month, the Nigerian was crowned as Italian footballers’ association player of the Year, the first African to win the AIC award.
Though Nigeria agonizingly missed out on the 2022 World Cup, losing the ticket to perennial rivals Ghana, Osimhen’s contributions to the Super Eagles were staggering in the year under review. He was the top scorer in the qualification race for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with 10 goals.
Although injuries have hampered his outing for Napoli this season – with just six goals in 10 games for Walter Mazzari’s men – Monday’s award is the crowning point of a hugely successful year for the Nigerian marksman.