Malawians will tonight follow the 2022 CAF Awards Gala in Rabat, Morocco with bated breaths hoping for the best for striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’Mhango in the race for Goal of the Year Award.
The South Africa-based Flames striker is among continental superstars who have made the final shortlist for various awards, including Senegalese forward Sadio Mane and his Egyptian counterpart Mohamad Salah.
However, despite getting an invitation, the 29-year-old will not be able to attend the event due to travel logistics.
Others shortlisted for the award are Senegalese Pape Ousmane Sakho and Zouhair El Noutaraji from Morocco.
In an interview yesterday, Mhango said: “It would have been great to be there and rub shoulders with some of the best players on the continent.
“Unfortunately, I only got th communication yesterday [Wednesday] and I am here in Polokwane where we are camping and to confirm my availability and then arrange travel would have been a challenge.
“It would have been easier if I were at my new base in Durban, but as it is, I have missed the event.”
Nevertheless, Mhango said he still hopes for the best.
He said: “As I said, just making the shortlist and getting an invite was, in its own, a great honour and a big motivation, but all the same, I am hoping I can get it.
“I know there are lots of expectations there at home and let’s see how it goes.”
Mhango is the third local icon to be shortlisted for the continental awards after the late Cliffton Msiya, Kennedy Malunga and women’s football star Tabitha Chawinga.
Msiya and Malunga were nominated for the prestigious African Footballer of the Year Award in 1984 and 1987, respectively while Chawinga was twice shortlisted for Africa Women’s Footballer of the Year Award in 2018 and 2019.
Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu, who is in Rabat for the awards, said: “Hopefully, I will have the honour to witness this award being presented to Gaba in absentia.”
Meanwhile, Mane, who is the reigning CAF Men’s Player of the Year is tipped as a favourite to retain the award by pundits ahead of his former Liverpool team-mate Salah.
He inspired Senegal to their first-ever Afcon glory in February in Cameroon. The Bayern Munish forward also helped the Lions of Teranga to qualify for the World Cup Qatar 2022.
That is not all. Mané was voted Player of the Afcon Tournament.
Reads a BBC report in part: “However, Salah also has strong credentials. A great season saw him win top scorer and player with the most goal assists in the Premier League. He was the Professional Footballers’ Association and Player Writer’s footballer of the year, beating Mané.
“But given the fact that this award is for a player who best represents African football, it would be an upset if Mané’s national accomplishments at Afcon would not prevail over the individual accolades for Salah.
Other awards to be presented will include best coach, national team, club and young player.