African sport in 2017 can be described in one line; ‘Nothing was guaranteed’.
A little known Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar pulled off an upset in the CAF presidential elections.
Senegal and South Africa had a World Cup qualifying match replayed, delivering different scores and different outcomes.
Kenyan world marathon record holder Mary Keitany floored the world in London and was stunned in New York a few months later.
African football champions Cameroon failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
As we bid farewell to the year 2017, we look back at the biggest wins of the year, the disheartening losses and the pleasant surprises in the African “world” of sports.
Algeria’s Mahrez wins 2016 African Footballer of the Year in Abuja
In January 2017, Algerian and Leicester midfielder Riyad Mahrez was crowned the Confederations of African Football (CAF) African Player of the Year 2016.
Winning the accolade ahead of Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Senegal’s Sadio Mane, Mahrez dedicated it to the people back at home.
“Also I want to thank the Algeria fans and dedicate this to them as well and for my family.’‘
The award followed a hugely successful season where Mahrez won the English Premier League title and was voted Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.
Cameroon wins AFCON 2017 in Gabon
In January this year, Gabon hosted the continent’s biggest football tournament, The Africa Cup of Nations 2017(AFCON).
Having won the hosting rights after Libya withdrew because of security reasons, Gabon was proud to welcome Africa to its shores.
The hosts’ dreams of silverware were however quickly dashed as they were eliminated in the group stages at the hands of Cameroon. The other teams in the group were Gabon and Guinea Bissau.
Cameroon went on to win the tournament in a surprise development, after shocking tournament favorites Egypt 2-1 in the finals.
[Run down] Golden journey of Broos and his 23 Cameroonian 'friends' at AFCON 2017 https://t.co/pCfOEfK6vm— africanews (@africanews) February 9, 2017
Hayatou corruption probe in Egypt
In January, a few days before AFCON was to kick off in Gabon, the Egypt Competitions Authority dropped a bombshell.
They revealed that they had referred Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou to the country’s General Prosecutor over corruption charges.
According to the authority, they had evidence proving that Hayatou had contravened articles (8) sections A, B, C, D and E as contained in the Protection of Competition Act. By that, he abused his position at the time and gave broadcasting rights to Lagardere Sports unilaterally.
Hayatou and Lagardere denied the allegations.
Ahmad Ahmad unseats Hayatou as CAF president
In March, Madagascar Football Association president Ahmad Ahmad recorded an upset when he defeated Issa Hayatou in the race for CAF President.
The defeat ended Hayatou’s 29 year reign at the helm of African football.
While Hayatou had reminded the delegates in Addis Ababa where the election was held, of the strides Africa had taken under his leadership including hosting the World Cup in 2010, Ahmad promised reform and transparency at Africa’s football governing body.
SUGGESTED READING Profile of new CAF boss Ahmad Ahmad
Africa World Cup qualifiers – the road to Russia 2018
The race for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was as heated as they come with the Senegal-South Africa tie standing out because it was replayed after poor refereeing.
In the first match played in South Africa, the hosts won 2-1 but Fifa ordered the match to be replayed after the referee awarded a penalty for a nonexistent handball. The referee was banned for life for match manipulation.
Senegal won the replay 2-0 and qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Egypt’s qualification was quite dramatic with their star player Mohamed Salah scoring the winning goal against Congo in the 95th minute of the game.
Nigeria qualified in emphatic fashion going unbeaten against stellar competition including African champions Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria.
Morocco qualified at the expense of fancied Ivory Coast, topping the qualification group after beating the Ivory Coast 2-0 in the final group game. Ivory Coast needed to win the game to qualify while Morocco needed just a draw.
Fellow North Africans, Tunisia also qualified after topping their group that also had DR Congo and Guinea vying for the Russia ticket.