Sports / Updates
Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016 12:07 EATtmatalanga@kenyafreepress.com
Algerian international Riyad Mahrez' dynamic performances in Leicester City's remarkable Premier League title win last season garnered him the prestigious BBC African Player of the Year Award. The 25-year-old France-born forward who earlier this year became the first African to win the Professional Footballers Association Player of the Year Award on the back of his 17 goals and 11 assists for Leicester, beat fellow nominees Yaya Toure, Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Andre Ayew as fans from across the world voted overwhelmingly for the Algerian.
Mahrez has made a remarkable rise from playing street football as a youngster to shining in the company of the world's best footballers. In 2016 he proved he can thrive at the highest level after scoring four goals in his first five Champions League matches in the Foxes' debut season in the tourney. He has also excelled on the international stage. In his five matches for Algeria, he has scored two goals and provided five assists on top of helping the Desert Warriors qualify for next month's Africa Cup of Nations.
His achievements have also been recognized by world's football governing body FIFA, who included him on its shortlist for Player of the Year, the only African among 23 players. "It means a lot, it's something big for African players so I am very happy and very proud," he told the BBC. It's always good to receive awards and for Africans this is a huge honor," added Mahrez, whose father is Algerian and mother of Moroccan/Algerian descent.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri was in the audience and expressed his delight. "He is improving every day, I don't speak about his quality. I speak about his sacrifice, he has fought for the team because it is very important for us to be together." the Italian told the BBC.
Mahrez, who cost the Foxes, then managed by Nigel Pearson just £400,000 when they bought him from French outfit Le Havre in 2014, is the first player for Leicester City and the second non-European after Luis Suarez (2013-14) to win the award.
Matalanga is a student of journalism at the East Africa School of Media Studies and an intern writer at the Kenya Free Press.