Christopher Katongo has won the 2012 BBC African Footballer of the Year award.
The 30-year-old Zambia captain beat off competition from Demba Ba, Didier Drogba, Younes Belhanda and Yaya Toure to become the first winner from southern Africa in the history of the award.
Katongo told BBC Sport: “This is a fantastic moment for me. I thank the people who voted for me. It is something I will never forget in my career.
“This means a lot for the young people and the young players who look up to me. I could not have achieved this without the support of my team-mates.”
The shortlist for the award was drawn up by football experts from every country in Africa, who based their choices on players’ skill, technical ability, teamwork, consistency and fair play.
And a record number of people nominated their favourite online or by text message with just over 40% of the votes going to Katongo, who plays his club football in China for Henan Construction.
While all the players on the shortlist have enjoyed a superb year, with four of the players picking up silverware, it is Katongo whose performances and achievements have been considered by African football fans to be the greatest.
Katongo, who is also a soldier in his home country, was inspirational as he led Zambia to their first Africa Cup of Nations title in February.
He scored three goals en route to the final of the tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon and then struck a successful penalty in an 8-7 shoot-out victory over favourites Ivory Coast to lift the trophy in Libreville.
It was an emotional moment for Zambia, who had suffered a tragic air disaster 19 years previously, when a plane carrying most of the national team crashed when only 500m offshore from Libreville, killing all 25 passengers and five crew.
Seven months after leading Zambia to glory Katongo was again his country’s talisman, this time in a 2013 Nations Cup qualifying tie when he scored the only goal of the game in his side’s final-round first leg match against Uganda.
And it proved to be a vital strike as Chipolopolo lost the return leg 1-0 but made it through to next year’s tournament in South Africa by winning 9-8 in another penalty shoot-out.
In between those Nations Cup heroics, Katongo also provided the spark that lifted Zambia out of a difficult phase in their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.
Zambia suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Sudan in Khartoum in June – a result that remains in doubt while Sudan are being investigated for allegedly fielding an ineligible player – and they desperately needed a result against Ghana a week later.
Yet again it was Katongo who stepped up and scored the winner, putting his side’s campaign back on track.
And if Katongo can continue the form that has helped his country to new heights, as well as earning him individual recognition, he may well propel Zambia to the biggest stage of all in Brazil in 18 months’ time.