Much Ado About 2018 CAF Awards

Ahmad, left, CAF President, Salah, middle, President George Weah, right, during the presentation of the award to Salah in Dakar

Lagos – The anticipated 2018 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards, the 27th in the series, has come and gone with winners declared in the 11 categories held on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at the Centre International de conférences Abdou Diouf (CICAD) in Dakar, Senegal but not without its shortfalls.

As predicted Mohammed Salah (Egypt and Liverpool FC), retained his African Player of the Year Award while Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa & Houston Dash FC) dethroned Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala as the Women’s Player of the Year.

With Salah’s feat, the 26-years-old, has thus joined great stars like ex-Nigeria captain, Nwankwo Kanu and ex-Cote d’Ivoire captain, Didier Drogba as the players to have been named CAF African Player of the Year on two occasions.

The first player was Kanu in 1996 and 1999 while Drogba replicated the feat in 2006 and 2009.

However, from 1992 to 2017, from Ghana’s Abedi Pele to Moahmmed Salah, 17 players have laid claim to the most prestigious individual honour in African football.

Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o was the first to be crowned on four occasions – 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010; a record since equalled by Ivorian Yaya Toure, who made it four wins on the trot (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014). Former Senegal forward, El Hadji Diouf also won the award twice in a row; 2001 and 2002.

While winners of the prestigious honour have come from either the midfield or attack; as tradition was respected yet again on Tuesday, the 17 players to have been decorated since 1992, have and continue to remain amongst the foremost African ambassadors of the world’s most popular sport.

On the other hand, the baton changed in the Women’s Player of the Year, which has been dominated by Nigeria since its inception in 2001 as Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana clinched the award as predicted.

The Super Falcons have contributed four Queens of African Football – Mercy Akide, Perpetua Nkwocha, Cynthia Uwak and Asisat Oshoala.

Akide was the first to be crowned queen of the African game whilst Nkwocha was decorated a record four times (2004, 2005, 2010, 2011), a record Oshoala failed to equal after triumphs in 2014, 2016 and 2017. Uwak also won back-to-back titles (2006, 2007). Kgatlana also went ahead to win the Goal of the Year Award.

Though, Nigeria failed to really make an impact at the 2018 awards apart from the country winning the Women’s Team of the Year award, critics and pundits of the game have condemned the way and manner Nigerian players were excluded from the Africa Finest XI, which was for the first time, coordinated by FIFPro.

The Africa Best XI include: Denis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns/Uganda), Serge Aurier (Tottenham/Cote d’Ivoire), Medhi Benatia (Juventus/Morocco), Eric Bailly (Manchester United/Cote d’Ivoire), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli/Senegal).

Others are Naby Keita (Liverpool/Guinea), Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid/Ghana), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City/Algeria); Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal/Gabon) and Sadio Mane (Liverpool/Senegal).

Nigeria’s Hapoel Beer Sheva midfield star, John Ogu slammed CAF for leaving out two of his national teammates, Wilfred Ndidi and William Troost-Ekong from the list.

Ogu also questioned the inclusion of Juventus centre back, Mehdi Benatia and Tottenham Hotspur’s right back, Serge Aurier who were included in the four man defence line listed by CAF.

He also believes the pair of Naby Keita and Thomas Partey didn’t fair better than Ndidi in 2018.

“Let’s put sentiment aside, I can argue this anywhere that Ndidi, TroostEkong, even Ighalo all should be there.

“Award is based on your performance for club and country and not how big of a club you play in. Ndidi plays for arguably the best league in the world,”Ogu stated via his official Twitter handle.

“Ekong, Ndidi had a better season for their clubs. Made it to the World Cup. Had a decent performance at the World Cup and you say clubs they play in? Aurier , Bailly,Keita all didn’t make it.”

“Benatia, Aurier are not even regulars for their clubs”, Ogu lamented.

And while Nigeria won the Women’s Team of the Year award, (it was the fourth time the Super Falcons would pick up the diadem, following earlier wins in 2010, 2014 and 2016) the team’s coach, Thomas Dennerby was denied the Women’s Coach of the Year award which was won by Banyana Banyana of South Africa coach, Desire Ellis.

“That decision too was wrong and bad. Against all odds, the Super Falcons, without proper preparations for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nation (AWCON) went to the championship and did not only win the trophy, but won it for a record nine times.

“That only deserves an applaud from the coaching crew led by Dennerby. CAF really needs to live up to its responsibilities in decisions taken.

“What did Ellis achieve apart from qualifying her team for the World Cup billed for France? I think there is more to the decisions of the panel that what we were made to know”, said Special Assistant on Women’s football to the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Harry Awurunibe.

Highlight of the night was the Legends XI parade which included Nigeria legends Emmanuel Amuneke (winner of the Player of the Year in 1994), Nwankwo Kanu (winner in 1996 and 1999), Victor Ikpeba (winner in 1997) and the daughter of late Rashidi Yekini (winner in 1993).

Others included President Weah (the 1995 World, European and African Player of the Year), Patrick Mboma (Cameroon), El Hadj Diouf (Senegal), Frederick Kanoute (Mali), Didier Drogba (Cote d’Ivoire), Samuel Eto’o Fils (Cameroon) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt).