Drogba a surprise choice
I am, I have to confess, slightly surprised by the choice of Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba as the CAF African Footballer of 2009.
The Chelsea star won the prestigious prize for the second time on Thursday night although many experts expected to see Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o win it for the fourth time.
The Ivorian was crowned Africa's best by a poll of the continent's coaches, who nominated Drogba (92 points) above both Eto'o (69) and local boy Michael Essien (43) at Thursday's award ceremony in the Ghanaian capital Accra.
One could, of course, ask whether this was really Drogba's third title. He was tipped to win in 2007, but missed the awards ceremony in Togo (which came 48 hours before a crucial 2008 Nations Cup quarter-final).
The prize went to Mali's Frederic Kanoute with the Confederation of African Football (Caf) later stating: "Any player who is absent at [the] award ceremony will not be taken into consideration in placements of African footballer of the year."
After meeting with Caf president
Michael Essien was advised not to travel by doctors because of his knee troubles, Eto'o is in Catania for Friday night's key clash for Serie A table-toppers Inter Milan while Drogba's Chelsea host West Ham on Saturday.
So was it a sympathy vote by Africa's national coaches, who determine the award, after Drogba missed out two years ago or simply a case of short memories as the time for voting came around (for the Ivorian was red-hot at the tail end of 2009)? Or may it have been that the voters believed Eto'o's three African Footballer of the Year titles (2003-2005) were already enough?
Drogba in action for Ivory Coast against South Korea at Loftus Road
Of course, the simple answer is that most believed Drogba to be last year's best but I would question whether that was really the case.
Just to recap, the club highlight of Drogba's 2009 was when he scored in the FA Cup final defeat of Everton - a mere consolation prize after Chelsea missed out on both the Premier and Champions Leagues.
Meanwhile, Eto'o was instrumental in Barcelona's historic Spanish league, cup and Champions League treble - plundering goals aplenty, including one in the European final against Manchester United (which made him one of only two men to have scored in different Champions League finals).
Internationally, both players were more or less equal, playing lead roles in qualifying their nations for this year's World Cup - Drogba outscoring Eto'o by five to three in 2009, but not overall - while both captains scored the goals that clinched their team's qualification.
Everyone is of course free to make their own choices but I'm still surprised that the coaches of Egypt, South Africa and eight other nations failed to even give Eto'o one of their three votes, with the coaches having to choose from an original list also comprising Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita.
Either way, it was a fantastic way for Drogba to celebrate his 32nd birthday on Thursday as he succeeded last year's winner Emmanuel Adebayor (who incidentally had tipped Eto'o as his successor).
Elsewhere though, the honours seemed fairly spot on.
Algeria deservedly won the National Team of the Year, ahead of Ivory Coast and Ghana, for the unexpected feat of reaching the World Cup finals, which even manager Rabah Saadane admits was beyond his wildest expectations when qualifying started.
"The World Cup was a dream at the beginning and I used to say 'you need to be a magician to qualify this team for the World Cup' but the dream came true," says a man who outwitted Egypt in November's tensest of play-offs.
Saadane achieved a minor miracle in taking the little-fancied Desert Foxes to South Africa so it seems mildly unfair that he was ineligible to win Coach of the Year, for Caf's criteria state that the winner 'must have guided [his] team to a major feat in a major championship during the year under review'.
This also excluded Cameroon's French coach Paul Le Guen who worked wonders steering the Indomitable Lions from bottom of their World Cup qualifying group to top after his arrival, as they won four must-win matches when there was no room for error.
So last year's coach of the year went instead to Sellas Tetteh, a deserving winner since he guided Ghana's U20 side to Fifa World Youth Championship glory in Egypt - making history as Africa won the title for the first time. For that reason, it also seems odd that the Black Satellites, as Ghana's U20 side are known, failed to make the shortlist for national team of the year, especially since they fulfilled all the necessary criteria.
Other winners on the night included Dominic Adiyiah, the Ghanaian whose eight goals in Egypt earned a dream move to AC Milan, winning the Young Player of the Year prize ahead of South Africa's Kermit Erasmus, who may just make a name for himself at the World Cup, and Nigerian U17 star Sani Emmanuel.
My personal favourite though is the Best Supporters of the Year award which South Africa's fans won, largely for their vociferous displays during last year's World Cup dress rehearsal - the Confederations Cup.
South Africa's Football Supporters Association (Safsa) has reacted in euphoric fashion, releasing a media statement - entitled 'Vuvuzela Conquers Africa!' - as it beats the drum for the controversial plastic trumpet.
The South Africans even sent their most famous fan to Ghana, with Saddam Maake declaring upon receipt of the trophy - "Vuvuzela is our heritage, our pride and unique culture of celebrating and supporting our beautiful game: long live Vuvuzela!"
Revealing the local excitement in this historic year, Safsa has even asked all football fans and media to attend a 'heroes' welcome' to greet the returning delegation from Ghana - only if you're keen of course, since they arrive at 0430 on Saturday morning.