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Award for magnificence
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 05 - 03 - 2009

At a star- studded ceremony in Cairo, Egypt and Ahli player Mohamed Abou Treika was officially crowned the 2008 BBC African footballer of the year. Inas Mazhar reports
The awards ceremony celebrating African football excellence was attended by Egypt's football elite including Abu Treika, his teammates and club manager. He received the prestigious trophy from Egyptian legend Mahmoud El-Khatib.
The midfield star won by an overwhelming majority, taking more than half of the total ballot. More than 155,000 people cast their votes for the BBC award, the only one of its kind to be decided by football fans around the world.
Abu Treika was announced the winner in January. The awards ceremony took place last Saturday.
The award is in recognition of a magnificent year for the player who helped his country win the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations and his club to take the African Champions League for a record sixth time.
Abu Treika, who beat African stars Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba and Amr Zaki and last year's winner Emmanuel Adebayor, said: "Winning the BBC trophy is an honour for both Egyptian football and my club Ahli. I am proud that thousands of fans cast their votes for me from among the elite of African football. This was a really amazing conclusion to 2008 which was exceptionally successful for myself and my teammates. It is also a great responsibility to carry this title as it means expectations of my footballing performance are also very high.
"2008 was a tremendous year for me especially at the beginning of the year when we were crowned champions of Africa for the sixth time and ended with a victorious African Champions league season, which I believe we rightly deserved. Then together with Ahli we won the African Champions League by the end of the year. Overall it was an opportunity for me and my teammates to play attractive football and be a showcase for Egyptian football across the world.
"We're going to be put to the test with the challenges of our international duties coming up especially the 2010 World Cup qualifications. Going to South Africa for the Confederations Cup won't be an easy ride and it couldn't get more intense as we're reaching the final stages of the World Cup qualifiers. We're expecting fierce competition with our group opponents. Our ultimate aim will most definitely be reaching the 2010 World Cup finals."
Farayi Mungazi, presenter of the BBC World Service's African sports programme Fast Track, which announced the shortlist and the winner of the award, addressed the gathering. "The BBC is delighted to be able to present Mohamed Abu Treika with his award as BBC African Footballer of the Year 2008. His exploits of the last 12 months kept our listeners and the readers of our website enthralled as Egypt and Ahli swept all before them in the Africa Cup of Nations and the African Champions League.
"He won our public vote by an overwhelming majority, and this award is a fitting tribute to a marvelous year for him. Now he and his colleagues have the chance to take Egypt to the Word Cup in South Africa 2010 and BBC World Service will be following that campaign every step of the way.
"With Abu Treika winning this award for 2008 and Mohamed Barakat before in 2005 and the national team's victories in both the 2006 and 2008 Nations Cup as well as Ahli's three times victory of the African Champions League in the last four years means that Egyptian football is dominating African football on both levels -- national team and club competitions. There is no doubt about Egyptian football dominance. Results speak more than words and that they are now on top of the mountain. The brilliant performances of Egypt's European- based players in the English premier league also prove how Egypt has many talents."
Speaking at the ceremony, head of BBC Arabic, Hossam El-Sokkari, said: "The BBC has been broadcasting to the Arab world for more than seven decades. Over the years we have endeavoured to reflect excellence and highlight achievements of Arabs in various fields. Abu Treika's award comes from BBC audiences across the globe to support our efforts in celebrating talent in the Arab world."
The 31- year-old Abu Treika dedicated the award to his Ahli coach Manuel Jose whom the player believes has had a great influence in his career, technically and psychologically. "He played a big role in what I have become now and to him I dedicate this award."
Jose was happy for his player. "What can I say about Abu Treika? He is a player who has talent by natural gift and not by practice.
"Five years ago when I returned to lead Ahli club, my assistant coach Hossam El-Badri told me there is a player who plays for the Tersana club, which was in the second division then, and we want you to see him. If you agree we would sign a contract with him.
"So, I said bring me his tapes of his games and I can still remember when Abu Treika came with the tapes. He was afraid I might not like his performance. But from the moment I saw the films, I knew I was going to be a lucky man in the future and the rest of the story is history.
"Abu Treika is the key player. What the other players can't do, he can do. He is a fantastic player and a fantastic person. For me he is the best player playing in Africa for the last five years. Every year he is the best."
El-Khatib, Ahli vice-president who presented the award to Abu Treika, was happy for the player he brought to the club five years ago. "I suggested at the time the coach sees him playing for Tersana. He is really talented and skillful. After we signed a deal with him, I gave him advice -- to understand that he will be moving to a bigger club and he has to make himself worth it. The first impression will last forever and he has to put all his effort and prove himself in the first year. And he did and here we are. In a few years he has become the biggest player in Africa.
"I believe Abu Treika still has many years to give both his club and the national team but only his performance on the pitch and achievements can carry him for years and years to come.
El-Sokkari said El-Khatib was selected to present the award in recognition of his achievements to African football, being the only Egyptian player who has claimed CAF African Player of the year, in 1983.


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