In early 1973, influential French Soccer Weekly France Football released the third set of top African players for the year 1972.
The list was the third since the advent of the Awards initiated in 1970. Salif Keita of Mali, a professional player in France, then with Saint Etienne, was voted as Africa’s best in 1970. Laurent Pokou of ASEC Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire came second with Ali Abugreisha of Ismaily, Egypt named third.
But the awarding took a different dimension in 1971 when it narrowed down on players who featured for local clubs – and not playing abroad. Ibrahim Sunday of Asante Kotoko, Ghana was voted best. His team mate Robert Mensah was second ahead of François Ndoumbé of Canon Yaounde, Cameroon.
In 1972, and for the first time, the list saw two key East African players feature as the top 15 African players.
Kenya’s revered left wing back Jonathan Niva, who turned out for Abaluhya FC was voted in at position 11 that he shared with Uganda winger Dennis Obua who then turned out for Uganda Police.
Niva aka Simba wa Mayeye after his regularly bearded face, made his debut for Kenya in February 1965 against Uganda. He was the player Coach when Kenya made it maiden appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations held in Cameroon.
Niva, later named the 1972 Kenya player of the Year and second best Sportsman of the Year (after athlete Julius Sang) scored two of Kenya’s three goals at the tourney, a tally that makes him the highest goal scorer for Kenya at the competition to date.
Obua, who first played against Kenya in March 1967, was a regular for Uganda. He was part of the Ugandan side that first qualified, and featured in the 1968 Africa Cup of Nations held in Ethiopia.
As the two East Africans settled for 11th spot, Cherif Souleymane of Hafia Conakry, Guinea was named the best with his team mate Petit Sorry coming third. TP Mazembe's Tshimen Bwanga - later named Africa's best in 1973, was second.
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