Mustapha Hadji is Africa's new king
Faced with the choice of an international football career between France and Morocco, Mustapha Hadji thought long and hard before wearing the colours of the Atlas Lions of his native Morocco. And he has had no cause to regret it.
A veteran of the 1994 and 1998 World Cups (and he is still only 27), Hadji surprisingly beat Nigeria's Augustine "Jay-Jay" Okocha and South Africa's Benedict McCarthy to win the 1998 African Footballer of the Year award.
Hadji's brilliance at the 1998 African Nations Cup finals in Burkina Faso, where he scored the competition's best goal - a spectacular "scissors kick" goal against Egypt - is what probably tipped the scales in his favour.
Despite their first round exit from the World Cup finals in France last summer, Morocco's Atlas Lions were commended for their fluid style of football in which Hadji played a central part, scoring the team's first goal of the tournament against Norway.
Hadji is the first Moroccan player to win the award since his compatriot, the legendary goalkeeper Badou Zaki won it in 1986. The nimble-footed Moroccan has appeared in 38 internationals for his country and has scored nine goals.
He started his professional career at the French second division side Nancy, moving on to Sporting Lisbon of Portugal before landing at his current Spanish club, Deportivo La Coruna.
The full rankings for the top 10 African Footballers 1998:
1. Mustapha Hadji. Deportivo La Coruna (Spain) and Morocco - 76 votes.
2. Augustine "Jay-Jay" Okocha. Paris St Germain (France) and Nigeria - 74 votes.
3. Sunday Oliseh. Ajax Amsterdam (Holland) and Nigeria - 58 votes.
4. Hossam Hassan. Al Ahli and Egypt - 34 votes.
5. Benedict McCarthy. Ajax Amsterdam (Holland) and South Africa - 24 votes.
6. Tchiressoa Guel. ASEC Mimosas and Cote D'Ivoire -16 votes.
7. Charles Akunnor. Vfl Wolfsburg (Germany) and Ghana - 12 votes.
8. Marc Vivien Foe. RC Lens (France) and Cameroon - 10 votes.
9. Finidi George. Real Betis (Spain) and Nigeria - 8 votes.
10. Rigobert Song. Salernitana (Italy) and Cameroon - 6 votes.
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