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CAF Awards: 19 yrs. after, Nigeria’s woes continue, who will break the jinx?

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In this piece, CRISPNG’s Sports Editor, Israel Igiri takes a critical look at reasons no Nigerian player has won the prestigious African Footballer of the Year award since 2000 and the way forward.

Photo Credit: FootTheBall

It is no longer news that Egyptian and Liverpool forward, Mohamed Salah was again named the best African player of the year for a second successive year. At the award ceremony held in Dakar, Senegal on Tuesday night, Salah, 26, beat Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane of Senegal and Arsenal and Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the title after having a sterling year which saw him scored 44 goals for both Liverpool and Egypt in 2018.

However, it is disappointing and sad that it has been 19 years since a Nigerian last won the continent’s most prestigious individual award. Ever since Nwankwo Kanu won the award in 1999, seeing a Nigerian rise to the podium to receive the prestigious prize has continued to remain a dream for close to two decades. As a matter of fact, Nigeria has had a candidate in the final three shortlists on only four of the last 16 occasions- Jay Jay Okocha (in 2003 and 2004), John Obi Mikel (in 2013) and Vincent Enyeama (in 2014).

This is a clear indication that Nigeria, famed for its “giant of Africa,” tag has not lived up to the hype when it comes to dominating the football most prestigious individual award in the continent. While players such as Emmanuel Amunike, Nwankwo Kanu, Victor Ikpeba and Rashidi Yekini won the prize in the 1990s, players from other countries like Cameroon, Cote d’ Ivoire and Egypt have in the past 19 years, dominated the award. So, what seems to have gone wrong with Nigerian footballers, who have always had the potentials and skills to compete with their African counterparts? This is a question that seeks answer.

This is a clear indication that Nigeria, famed for its “giant of Africa,” tag has not lived up to the hype when it comes to dominating the football most prestigious individual award in the continent.

It must be pointed out that Nigerian players have not done enough in recent times to deserve the accolade. Despite the fact that thousands of Nigerian players ply their trade in Europe, there is a great concern over their consistency. It is worrisome to see that only the likes of Alex Iwobi and Wilfred Ndidi are seen as the country’s best players at the moment. The good old days when Nigeria used to dominate the award are gone.

A look the winners of the CAF Player of the Year Award since Year 2000

          YEAR        1ST       2ND           3RD
         2000 PATRICK MBOMA (CAMEROON) LAUREN ETAME MAYER (CAMEROON) SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON)
         2001 EL HADJI DIOUF (SENEGAL) SAMUEL KUFFOUR (GHANA) SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON)
         2002 EL HADJI DIOUF (SENEGAL) PAPA BOUBA DIOP (SENEGAL) MIDO    (EGYPT)
         2003 SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE) JAY-YAY OKOCHA (NIGERIA)
        2004 SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE) JAY-YAY OKOCHA (NIGERIA)
       2005 SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE) MICHAEL ESSIEN (GHANA)
       2006 DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE) SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON) MICHAEL ESSIEN (GHANA)
       2007 FREDERIC KANOUTE (MALI) MICHAEL ESSIEN (GHANA) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE)
       2008 EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR (TOGO) MOHAMED ABOUTRIKA (EGYPT) MICHAEL ESSIEN (GHANA)
      2009 DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE) SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON) MICHAEL ESSIEN (GHANA)
      2010 SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON) ASAMOAH GYAN (GHANA) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE)
      2011 YAYA TOURE (COTE D’ IVOIRE) SEYDOU KEITA (MALI) ANDRE AYEW (GHANA)
     2012 YAYA TOURE (COTE D’ IVOIRE) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE) ALEX SONG (CAMEROON)
     2013 YAYA TOURE (COTE D’ IVOIRE) JOHN OBI MIKEL (NIGERIA) DIDIER DROGBA (COTE D’ IVOIRE)
     2014 YAYA TOURE (COTE D’ IVOIRE) PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (GABON) VINCENT ENYEAMA (NIGERIA)
     2015 PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (GABON) YAYA TOURE (COTE D’ IVOIRE) ANDRE AYEW (GHANA)
2016 RIYAD MAHREZ

(ALGERIA)

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (GABON) SADIO MANE

(SENEGAL)

2017 MOHAMED SALAH

(EGYPT)

SADIO MANE

(SENEGAL)

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (GABON)
2018 MOHAMED SALAH

(EGYPT)

SADIO MANE

(SENEGAL)

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (GABON)

 

In the last 19 years, while the award has gone to players from Cote d’ Ivoire six times and to players from Cameroon on five different occasions, it has also gone to countries such as Senegal (2), Egypt (2), Togo (1), Gabon (1), Algeria (1) and Mali (1).

Although, no player from Ghana has won the award since 1992 (when Abedi Pele won the award), the fact remains that Ghana has had more representatives (9) than Nigerian (4) on the final three shortlists for the coveted football award on the continent since the year 2000.

The task before Nigeria now is to look for the football player that will come to nation’s rescue. Nigeria has just got to find a way to get through this. The failure to win the award for the past 19 years should be a challenge to Nigerian players. They have got to step up if Nigeria is to be considered a force to be reckoned with once again.

At the moment, only the likes of Ndidi and Iwobi play week-in-week-out for their respective teams and can be said to be the only players that can compete with players such as Salah, Mane, Aubameyang, Mahrez and others, for this year’s edition of the award considering their exploits for Leicester City and Arsenal respectively. However, they need to maintain their good form because consistency is needed if they are to be considered for the prize come January 2020.

The failure to win the award for the past 19 years should be a challenge to Nigerian players. They have got to step up if Nigeria is to be considered a force to be reckoned with once again.  

Consistency and hard work must be taken into serious consideration if Nigeria is to break this jinx that has lasted for 19 years. Nigerian footballers need to rise to the occasion by being consistent and also playing on top of their game. Players who have dominated the awards in the past 19 years have in one time or the other, remained key figures for their respective clubs. Even the current winner ‘King’ Salah who will hold the crown as Africa’s finest football player for the next one year can attest to the fact that hard work and consistency pays.

Consistency and hard work must be taken into serious consideration if Nigeria is to break this jinx that has lasted for 19 years.

Even as the battle for the 2019 CAF Footballer of the Year Award has just begun, the task to restore the pride of the nation at the continent’s most prestigious individual accolade is on all Nigerian players. The situation at hand provides Nigerian players the challenge and opportunity to go back and re-work on themselves because Nigeria urgently needs someone to deal with this jinx that has prevailed over her for the past 19 years. And until she is bailed out of this situation, becoming a great force to be reckoned with once again will remain a huge dream.

 

 

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