FRANCE 24 and sister radio station RFI awarded the 2022 Marc-Vivien Foé Prize for the year’s best African footballer in Ligue 1 to RC Lens captain Seko Fofana. A sharp and decisive player, the 27-year-old Ivorian has established himself as an indispensable player for his club and one of the most successful players in the French top flight.
Fofana has played a vital role in RC Lens’s rise to prominence – reaching 7th place in Ligue 1 this season just two years after getting promoted. The Ivorian star has lived up to his early promise, scoring 8 goals in 35 league games in 2021-22.
Born in Paris on May 7, 1995, Fofana started his career as a child at Paris FC from 2004 to 2010; the French capital’s little-known second team being a fertile breeding ground for young talent. Fofana then stepped up a notch by joining the academy of Lorient, where he played from 2010 to 2013.
Fofana got his big break when Premier League giants Manchester City signed him in 2013 after spotting his performances for the French national team’s under-16 and under-17 sides.
This provided a great opportunity for Fofana’s development, as he rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest players of the day, including his compatriot and idol Yaya Touré. He listened carefully to the advice of Man City’s renowned managers Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini.
However, the young Fofana didn’t play any first team matches – continuing his apprenticeship in the Man City reserves under the tutelage of French footballing icon Patrick Viera.
Fofana’s performances in the reserves attracted the attention of Fulham, then in the Championship, English football’s second tier. A successful 2014-15 season on loan at Craven Cottage led to another loan spell, this time in Ligue 1 at Corsican side Sporting Club de Bastia.
The club finished the 2015-16 season at a respectable 10th place – with Fofana making a sterling contribution to that better than expected performances in his 32 appearances. Italy’s Udinese – who have a knack for snapping up young talent – liked what they saw and signed the Ivorian from Man City for €3.5 million.
Fofana really came into his own during his stretch at the Serie A club from 2016 to 2020 – benefitting from the Italian league’s rigorous tactical style.
At the end of this period, Fofana decided to return to France, despite an offer from Atalanta Bergamo, one of the most exciting teams in Europe.
Despite being linked with Marseille several times, Fofana signed for Lens in 2020 – as they smashed their club transfer record to snap him up for €10 million, keen to develop into a formidable force in Ligue 1. Fofana soon established himself as one of the club’s key players, developing a formidable partnership with Congolese teammate Gaël Kakuta, who won the 2021 Marc-Vivien Foé Award.
“This is the best side I’ve ever played in; the last time I experienced this was at City’s youth team,” Fofana told So Foot magazine in 2021.
Such is Fofana’s dedication to his club that he declined the chance to play for Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations in January – preferring to devote himself to French club competitions.
But after garnering much attention for his performances, Fofana may well be setting his sights far above RC Lens soon enough – with a move to a Champions League team on the cards.
A group of nearly 100 journalists specialising in French and African football chose the winner from a shortlist of 12 players drawn up by the sport departments of FRANCE 24 and RFI.
This annual award for the best African player in Ligue 1 has been named after Marc-Vivien Foé since 2011, in tribute to the Cameroonian player who died suddenly while playing for his country in a match against Colombia at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon on June 26, 2003. Players who have been capped for an African national team and played in at least 15 Ligue 1 matches over the past season are eligible for the prize.
2021: Gaël Kakuta (DR Congo)
2020 : Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)
2019 : Nicolas Pépé (Ivory Coast)
2018: Karl Toko-Ekambi (Cameroon)
2017: Jean Michaël Seri (Ivory Coast)
2016: Sofiane Boufal (Morocco)
2015 : André Ayew (Ghana)
2014: Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
2013: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
2012 : Younès Belhanda (Morocco)
2011 : Gervinho (Ivory Coast)
2010: Gervinho (Ivory Coast)
2009: Marouane Chamakh (Morocco)
Published/updated on 16/05/2022