Zambia skipper Christopher Katongo is upbeat about the possibility of being crowned 2012 Africa-footballer-of-the-year despite facing some of the big names in African football.
Reigning holder Yaya Toure of Ivory Coast, Alexander Song (Cameroon), Andre Ayew (Ghana), Demba Ba (Senegal), Didier Drogba and Gervais Lombe Yao Koussi (Ivory Coast) have been nominated for the word.
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) and Younes Belhanda (Morocco) are the other players vying for the top award.
Katongo, the striker who led Zambia to win their first African Cup of Nations title in February, says he has a good chance of winning.
â€œAnything is possible. This is football. Who knew that Zambia could win the Africa Cup? We won and here we areâ€¦.we are African champions,â€ Katongo said.
In an interview in Lusaka yesterday, Katongo said he has worked hard in the last two years and deserves the prestigious award.
He said he led the Chipolopolo to the quarter-finals at the 2010 Angola Africa Cup of Nations where Zambia lost 4-5 on penalties to Nigeria after a goalless draw in regulation time.
The quarter-final berth came after 14 years of group stage ejection.
â€œI have worked hard in the last two years and this year Zambia won the Africa Cup. I have put in my best for both the national team and for my club [ Henan Jienye of China],â€ Katongo said.
He is humbled to be nominated for the 2012 African-player-of-the-year.
Katongo admitted that competition for the prestigious award is tough but is confident of rising to the occasion.
â€œThere are some good players in competitive leagues in the world but I am sure the judges will look at what the players have achieved with their national teams,â€ he said.
The Confederation of African Football will announce the top three players this monthend and the winner will be announced on December 20 in Accra, Ghana.
Katongo also said it is important for a Zambian to win the African title to follow in the footsteps of soccer icon Kalusha Bwalya who was the continentâ€™s best in 1988.
â€œThat is why Kalusha is called the Great Kalu.Â Since 1988 no player from southern Africa has won the African-player-of-the-year award and those of us who are still active should strive to win the award. It is not only me and other Zambian players but other players from other countries as well.Â Players from North and West Africa have dominated of late,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Katongo said he will decide on his future with Henan Jienye after the Africa Cup of Nations.
Both Katongo and his Chipolopolo teammate Isaac Chansa feature for Jienye, who were demoted to the second division.
â€œI still have one year left on my contract and for now, my focus is on the Africa Cup. I will decide after the Africa Cup,â€ he said.
Katongo scored 11 goals for Jienye, two in cup games and 11 in the league.