The Lens midfielder Seko Fofana was on Monday awarded the Prix Marc Vivien-Foe to salute his performances as the best African player in France’s top flight during the 2021/2022.
The 27-year-old Ivorian came in ahead of the Rennes duo Hamari Traoré and Nayef Aguerd.
Ghanaian footballers Kamaldeen Sulemana, Majeed Waris, Alexander Djiku as well as Gideon Mensah were all eligible to win the award but none of them came close.
Fofana follows Gael Kakuta as the second consecutive Lens player to lift the accolade decided by a jury of RFI and France 24 sports journalists as well as former players and pundits.
He garnered 221 points while Traoré – from Mali – won 91 points and the Morocco international Aguerd received 77 points.
The prize is awarded in honour of the Cameroon international Foe who played for Lens, Lyon and Manchester City while he was in Europe before his death at the age of 28.
On 26 June 2003, during Cameroon’s Confederations Cup semi-final against Colombia in Lyon, Foe collapsed on the pitch.
He died later in the stadium’s medical centre. An autopsy discovered evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a hereditary condition known to increase the risk of sudden death during physical exercise. Tributes poured in hailing his ebullience and humour.
“I’m proud to win this award and to be recognised in this way,” Fofana told RFI. “It’s a wonderful prize which brings back many memories.
“The first time I went into a stadium was to the Stade de France with my dad to watch France’s match against Turkey. And it was during that day when we heard the news about Marc-Vivien Foe.
“When I learned I was in contention for the prize, I really wanted to win it … and that’s what’s happened.”
Fofana, who arrived at Lens in 2020 after four years in Italy with Udienese, has been one of the stars of Lens’s season during which they have vied for places in next season’s European competitions.
Going into the final game of the season, they have a chance of securing the Ligue 1 berth leading to the Europa Conference League.
“His award is well merited,” said Kakuta. “Everyone knows and can see his ability. When he arrived he was hampered by a few injuries but once he’d shaken those off he immediately showed his talents and that’s what we’ve seen all throughout this season.”
Fofana’s victory also furnishes Cote d’Ivoire with bragging rights.
Since the inception of an RFI sponsored award for best African footballer in Ligue 1 in 2009, it is the fifth time the prize has gone to an Ivorian. Gervinho claimed the bauble in 2010 and 2011; Jean Michael Seri in 2017 and Nicolas Pépé in 2019.
“When someone from Cote d’Ivoire country wins, I know that it brings enormous pride to the country,” said Fofana.
“Great players have won it in the past, like Gervinho. I see Nicolas when we play internationals … so to win it like him makes me extremely proud.”