The Ballon d’Or. The PFA Player of the Year. FIFA Puskás. As a football fan, you know these awards and are probably well aware whom they’ve been presented to over the years.
In 1992, the Ebony Shoe was initiated in Belgium. 'Le Soulier d’Ébène' is awarded annually to the best African or African origin player in the Belgian Pro League (or the Jupiler League) and was founded in association with the non-profit organisation African Culture Promotion, in order to shine the spotlight of players from, or with connection to the continent.
The award is decided by a panel comprised of the coaches in the top three divisions of the Belgian league, as well as the national team manager (currently Roberto Martinez) and a selection of journalists and media figures.
In 2019, the five candidates for the Ebony Shoe are; forward Yohan Boli of Sint-Truiden, Standard Liège midfielder Mehdi Carcela, Wolfsburg-loanee Landry Dimata at Anderlecht, and Tanzania national team captain Mbwana Samatta from Genk. Club Brugge are looking to make it back-to-back wins after Anthony Limbombe’s success last year, this season via winger Arnaut Groeneveld.
In the award's history, Anderlecht is by far the most represented team, with almost double the amount of recipients as nearest contender Club Brugge, fitting for the club who have won 13 titles since the award began. The Democratic Republic of the Congo - formerly a Belgian colony - is the most represented country.
There have been eight winners who have eventually found their way to the England Premier League.
One of the most recent recipients of the award is also the latest recruit to the Premier League on the list. The Monaco-loanee has made a startling impact in his inauguration to England, an exceptional cog in Leicester City’s side, proving to something of a coup for the Foxes who bagged the midfielder in exchange for Adrien Silva with Les Monégasques. He has registered more assists than any other player in the Leicester squad since he joined. Interestingly, whilst he was at Anderlecht he became the first player to be born in 1997 to play in the Champions League.
Finished the league’s second-highest top scorer at Standard Liège across the 2013/14 season, narrowly beaten by Hamdi Harbaoui of Lokeren. A successful stint at Olympique de Marseille eventually saw a transfer to Chelsea. However, the now-25-year-old, has been perpetually loaned out after having been unable to find favour with neither Antonio Conte nor Maurizio Sarri.
After missing out on the Ebony Shoe the year before to Mbark Boussofa, 6’3” striker Antwerp-born Lukaku finally got his mitts on it in 2011 after leading the line for Anderlecht.
Like Batshuayi before him, Lukaku’s talents were eventually seized upon by Chelsea, but also, like Batshuayi, struggled for gametime, suffering in the tussle to be privileged to be given game time, went out on loan, and then became Everton’s then-record-signing instead. He moved to Manchester United for a stonking fee in 2017 (£75m), and returned 27 goals across the season.
Yes! Him! The useful midfielder of Moroccan heritage took the accolade in 2008 as Liège won the title and subsequently moved to Everton where he spent five years and became a fan favourite, as well as a recognisable presence in the Premier League. In 2013 he joined ex-Toffees manager David Moyes at Manchester United upon the Scotsman’s appointment, and ultimately stayed five years longer than the gaffer, and helping the Red Devils win a treble of silverware. He moved to Chinese side Shandong Luneng in 2019.
The Manchester City skipper is so far one of only two men to win the award in successive seasons, in 2004 and 2005, the first alongside the Golden Shoe. Kompany is one of the few defenders to be awarded the Ebony Shoe, and the only one in post-Millennium. Kompany moved from Anderlecht to Hamburg, then eventually to Manchester City in 2008 where he has collected three Premier League titles and an FA cup, as well as be elected the 2012 Player of the Season.
The Egyptian journeyman has been across the continent but impressively won the Ebony Shoe in his only season in Belgium, at Gent, after scoring 11 goals in 23 league appearances. Mido spent time at both Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough in the late 2000s. Retired at the age of 30.
The first DRC-winner Mpenza spent one season at Manchester City just before the Abu Dhabi takeover. Fascinatingly, for the gold finish for the Ebony Shoe the striker finished ahead on the podium ahead of his older brother Mbo, who was also at Mouscron.
Nigerian Amokachi won the very first Ebony Shoe in 1992. Brilliantly, in the same year, he scored the very first goal in the official tournament of the European Cup under the UEFA Champions League branding. The forward played for two seasons at Everton (1994-96), making close to a half century of appearances for the Toffees, before moving to Beşiktaş. In his post-playing career, he has had two spells as assistant manager of his national team of Nigeria but is currently unemployed since leaving Finnish Suomen Palloliitto side JS Hercules.
(The 2019 award is due to be declared in May)