2017 was a massive year for African football both on and off the field as Cameroon won the African Nations Cup but did not qualify for the World Cup holding in Russia next year.
2017 also was a year that had fantastic personal achievements for African football as footballers in Europe and elsewhere.
Hence, 2017 also brought about the promise of a brighter future for the running of the game in Africa after three decades of rule by Cameroon Chief, Issa Hayatou came to a end in a shock defeat in the Confederation of African Football elections.
Brila.net is taking looks at the best five moments in African football in 2017.
1. Cameroon winning the African Nations Cup
The Indomitable Lions might have had previous Nations Cup success but it was last in the era of Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert Song and in recent times they had seemed more like kittens than cats.
A new-look team under Hugo Broos was not given much chance in Gabon at the start of the year‚ especially given seven players who had been called-up turned done an invitation to play at the tournament as they put club ahead of country.
Yet the Belgian trainer showed much faith in a rag-tag bunch and made some bold changes along the way as Cameroon scrapped their way through to the final against Egypt — also a side on the upturn after a spell in the dumps — and won the final in Libreville with a late goal from Vincent Aboubakar.
2. Nigeria beating Cameroon 4-0
There were many key qualifiers in the race for places in Russia through the year but none with the intense rivalry‚ anticipation and then exciting spectacle that the Super Eagles and the Indomitable Lions game in Uyo on September 1.
It was the last chance for Cameroon to keep alive their World Cup hopes and they went into the game as newly crowned African champions and having been together for three weeks in mid-year when they competed at the Confederation Cup in Russia.
Nigeria were going into the game after being beaten at home by South Africa in their previous match but two goals in each half saw the Nigerians to a convincing win and a giant step in securing a World Cup place.
3. Pierre Aubameyang finishing top scorer in the Bundesliga
The Gabon international ended the 2016/17 Bundesliga season as top scorer with 31 goals.
Auba became the fourth overall in Europe behind Lionel Messi (Barcelona)‚ Edinson Cavani (Paris St Germain) and Bas Dost of Sporting Lisbon in the list of top marksmen.
In Germany‚ Aubameyang finished one goal ahead of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski‚ the man he replaced at Borussia Dortmund and the pair are neck-and-neck again at the halfway point of the 2017-18 season with 15 goals for the Polish international and 13 for Aubameyang.
Aubameyang is only the second African to finish as the leading marksman in the German top flight after Ghana’s Tony Yeboah who was joint top scorer in both the 1992/93 and 1993/94 seasons while on the books of Eintracht Frankfurt.
4. Mohamed Salah’s signing for Liverpool
The Egyptian talisman set a new record for an African footballer with his 34.3-million pound (about R573-million) move from Roma to Liverpool.
It was second chance in the Premier League for the 25-year-old after his previous move to Chelsea from the Swiss club Basle flopped. Africa’s most expensive transfer came off the back of two scintillating seasons in Serie A‚ in which he has scored 29 times and registered 17 assists for Roma.
5. Change of leadership at the Confederation of African Football (CAF)
Ahmad of Madagascar was an anonymous member of the CAF executive committee‚ with only the fact that he beat Danny Jordaan to a seat on the 15-man cabinet marking him out.
His candidacy against long-time incumbent Issa Hayatou for the leadership of African soccer seemed an act of suicide but he surprised the odds by winning the electing and sending the again Cameroonian off into the subset.
Few‚ including the over confident Hayatou had realised how strong the winds of change were blowing through the game on the continent and the March elections in Addis Ababa swept not only Hayatou from power but most of his allies on the executive committee too.