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Bitter-sweet as Ekong wins AFCON’s best player award




Like Skipper Christian Chukwu did 44 years ago, Nigeria’s on-field captain, William Troost-Ekong was declared the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire although he ended up in the losing side.

He is also the first defender to score three goals in an Africa Cup of Nations edition

With Sebastien Haller of Cote d’Ivoire, both became the first players to score in both CAF semi-final and final in a same edition since Gedo of Egypt did in 2010.

The award is a bitter-sweet consolation for Ekong whose leadership quality was well acknowledged.


The PAOK centre-back played a pivotal role, leading the Super Eagles to their first final appearance since 2013. Despite scoring the opening goal, he couldn’t prevent his team from succumbing to goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller.

The 30-year-old’s three goals throughout the tournament stand as a record for defenders in the past two decades.

Emilio Nsue, captain and striker for Equatorial Guinea, claimed the Golden Boot with five goals. The 34-year-old netted a hat-trick against Cote d’Ivoire Coast in the group stage, becoming the oldest player to achieve the feat in AFCON history.

Cote d’Ivoire hero and coach Emerse Fae won the best coach award while Simon Adingra scooped the Best Youn Player award.

South Africa’s Ronwen Williams secured the Best Goalkeeper award for his standout performance in the quarter-finals, saving four out of five penalties in the shootout against Cape Verde. His team also bagged the Fair Play award.



List of awards

  • Best player

William Ekong (Nigeria)

  • Best Goalkeeper

Ronwen Williams (South Africa)

  • Best coach

Emerse Fae (Cote d’Ivoire)

  • Best young player

Simon Adingra (Cote d’Ivoire)

  • Top scorer

Emilio Nsue (Equatorial Guinea), 5 goals
Gelson Dala (Angola), 4 goals
Mostafa Mohamed (Egypt), 4 goals

  • Fair play

South Africa

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.