It’s been a tough 12 months for African football. Zambia relinquished their African Cup of Nations crown as the continental championship was played for the second year in succession to prevent it from clashing with the World Cup calendar; leagues in the north of the continent, particularly Egypt, were affected by continued political strife; the Club World Cup arrived in Morocco; and more African players made their names abroad.
Undoubtedly there have been many highlights from 2013, and Football Africa has picked out four of the best.
National team of the year
Nigeria’s Super Eagles were Africa’s most successful team of 2013. They lifted the African Nations Cup in January, competed at the Confederations Cup in Brazil and ensured they will be back there in 2014 by qualifying for the World Cup. But Burkina Faso made the biggest splash on the international stage.
The Stallions were unlikely ANC finalists, dumping Ghana out at the semifinal stage, and came within a goal of sealing an unprecedented qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Despite a qualification campaign dotted with teams fielding players who were ineligible, Burkina Faso made it to the last 10 teams and beat Algeria 3-2 in the first leg before losing the second. Aristide Bance, Jonathan Pitroipa and coach Paul Put are three names Africa will remember from this year.
Club team of the year
South Africa’s Orlando Pirates reached the CAF Champions League final, ending the country’s long wait for one of its teams to take continental competition seriously; Al-Ahly eventually beat them there to rack up a record eighth title but Raja Casablanca trumped both of those feats with their run through the Club World Cup.
Participating in the competition only as hosts, they won a playoff against Auckland City to qualify for the main event. Wins over Mexican side Monterrey and Ronaldinho’s Atletico Mineiro put them into the final but they could not overcome Bayern Munich -- losing 2-0 at the final hurdle. Still, for a group of what one European website called “mostly average players,” Raja’s run was cause for African celebration.
Goal of the year
Sunday Mba’s strike to win the ANC title was a well-judged shot that threaded through two defenders on its way to the back of the net; Ahmed Abd El-Zaher’s effort from close range finished off a good move in the box for Al-Ahly to put the Champions League final result beyond doubt -- although his pro-Mohamed Morsi celebration also got him into trouble -- but South Africa’s Bernard Parker wins this battle.
His 56th-minute shot, which was created by Itumeleng Khune who spotted him unmarked in the box, came after an exchange with Tokelo Rantie and beat Victor Valdes to give the lowly Bafana Bafana a shock 1-0 win over world champions Spain. It was a result nobody could have predicted. Indeed, it stood at risk of being labelled unofficial because of the number of substitutions made in the game but was eventually ratified to give the South Africans a confidence-boosting victory after a year in which they were knocked out of the ANC earlier than their target and failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Signing of the year
Didier Drogba moved from Shanghai Shenhua to Galatasaray on a one-and-a-half year deal in January and Tresor Mputu become embroiled in a controversy over whether he belonged to his home club TP Mazembe or Angolan side Kabuscorp, but the move that made the most headlines was Samuel Eto’o heading to Chelsea.
The Cameroon striker was reunited with his former Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho and reportedly took a massive pay cut to make the move having been the highest-paid player in the world at Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. Eto’o struggled at first in the English competition and scored only four times before netting the winner against Liverpool in the last match of the year to end 2013 on a high.