Nigeria international striker Paul Onuachu says he is proud to win the Ebony Shoe, which is awarded to Belgium’s best African player or player of African descent.
It completes a hat-trick of awards for the 26-year-old, who had already won the Belgian Professional Footballer of the Year and top scorer’s awards for the 2020-21 season.
“It doesn’t happen to every footballer and I feel proud, honoured and delighted to win this special award as a Nigerian and significantly as a professional from Africa,” Onuachu told BBC Sport Africa.
“To pick up three awards in a season is unbelievable and I thank God, my teammates and all the fans of Genk and Nigeria for the incredible support.
“I thank the organisers of the Ebony shoe award for their consistent and relentless support to African players in Belgium because this prize will continue to motivate us to do more.”
Onuachu won the prize ahead of Angola’s Clinton Mata (Club Brugge) and Belgian Théo Bongonda (Genk), who is of DR Congo descent.
He also paid tribute to the players who he beat to the award, including the Anderlecht duo of Lukas Nmecha and Albert Sambi Lokonga – who finished fourth and fifth.
“They are fantastic players too and they all made important impacts for their clubs. It shows Africans are making a great mark here in Belgium,” he added.
Onuachu becomes the first Nigerian to win the Ebony Shoe since Celestine Babayaro’s success in 1996 while he was playing for Anderlecht.
Nigerians dominated the award’s infancy with Daniel Amokachi of Club Brugge winning the maiden edition in 1992 and again in 1994, RFC Liège Victor Ikpeba (1993) and Eendracht Aalst’s Godwin Okpara (1995) followed suit before Babayaro’s success.
Expectedly Onuachu has been linked with several clubs in Europe, but the striker who joined Genk from Danish club Midtjylland in summer 2019 had confirmed winning the top awards in Belgium will keep him motivated for the future.
As well as scoring goals at the club level he has also ended a two-year struggle in front of goal at the international level.
In March 2019, Onuachu scored Nigeria’s fastest ever international goal against Egypt on his full debut, which helped the Super Eagles to their first victory over the Pharaohs in 29 years.
He then had to wait two years for his second goal, and this time he scrambled in Nigeria’s winner deep into injury time as they beat Benin 1-0 in Porto Novo to celebrate qualification to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Three days later, he scored his third goal international goal in 10 appearances and helped Nigeria coast to a 3-0 win over Lesotho as the three-time African Champions wrapped up their Nations Cup qualifying campaign unbeaten and top of Group L.
The towering centre forward, whose current contract with Genk will expire in June 2024, commented on his future.
“For me, you never know what the future holds but I think scoring a lot of goals this season for KRC Genk and of course my career is going to be one of the most important periods for me,” Onuachu told the club’s YouTube channel.
“It is going to be difficult to say I’m going to repeat it where I am going but I think the players we have in this team really make all this possible for me, but like I said earlier you don’t know what the future holds.
“As it is now I think I’m really happy for the figure I have in the league and of course for KRC Genk.”
Onuachu has been with Genk since August 2019 having joined the club from Danish side FC Midtjylland.