Three African stars have made history in the world’s most watched soccer league

Demand for African football talent is growing worldwide.
Demand for African football talent is growing worldwide.
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As far as individual awards in soccer go, winning the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals in a competition is one of the most elite.

And in the English Premier League, for the first time ever, that Golden Boot will be jointly shared by three Africans: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal/Gabon), Sadio Mané (Liverpool/Senegal) and Mohammed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt). It marks the third time the award is jointly shared by three players after similar joint wins in 1998 and 1999.

For their part, Aubameyang, Mané and Salah are also Africa’s most prominent soccer stars having dominated the top three nominations for the African Footballer of the Year award in the last two years. The trio’s popularity is also particularly boosted by playing in the English Premier League, the world’s most watched soccer league which also has a huge following across Africa.

Crucially, for African football, it highlights the rising excellence for the continent’s best players on the biggest stages of global soccer. Following a tremendous goal-scoring streak last year which saw his boots exhibited at the British Museum, Salah dominated individual prizes in England winning both the Golden Boot and the England player of the year award. He also finished third in voting for the FIFA Men’s player of the year award.

Similarly, in 2016, Riyadh Mahrez became the first African to win England’s player of the year (POTY) award after playing an important role as Leicester City, an English club with moderate financial budgets by modern standards, went on an improbable Cinderella run to win the league title, beating out far more celebrated rivals. As Quartz Africa also reported, Mahrez’s POTY prize was just as improbable as it defied the economics of modern soccer: in a sport where the best players are priced at several ten of million of pounds, Mahrez cost Leicester a mere £400,000 making him the least expensive player in history to win the award.

While Aubameyang, Mané and Salah will take pride in their shared individual prizes, there’s still a chance for collective glory as their teams, Arsenal and Liverpool, are due to compete separately in two of European football’s biggest tournament finals: the Europa League and the Champions League.

And there could be even more silverware on the cards for Mané and Salah when their national teams compete at the first African Cup of Nations to be played in June after a switch from the usual January calendar. Salah will have an extra advantage though as Egypt have been confirmed as contingency hosts for the tournament after Cameroon, the initial hosts, were stripped of hosting rights.

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