PLAYING POLITICS WITH CAF ANNUAL AWARDS

The 2018 CAF Awards ceremony was held at the Abdou Diouf International Conference Center in the Senegalese capital of Dakar Tuesday night and it featured an array of world football legends and officials led by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, CAF president Ahmad Ahmad and Liberian president George Opong Weah.

Mauritania were adjudged winners of the men’s team of the year after qualifying for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). 

Nigeria’s Super Falcons who are African champions for the 9th time won the women team award. 

Egypt’s Mohamed Salah’s award as male African footballer of the year was expected, ahead of his Liverpool team mate, Senegalese Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and Gabon.

Many Nigerians knew they had nobody to compete with the trio.

You know that Nigerians are always complaining that we are always outdone by those who know how to play politics in African football. We have beefed and beefed and one would think that those beefing would have done something about it by now.

However, the usual thing is that when the event or activity that brought about the beefing is concluded, everybody forgets about the perceived marginalization until it rears it’s head again.

Tuesday’s CAF Awards ceremony was another opportunity for us to complain about how Nigeria, the ‘big brother’ to all other African countries, is always shortchanged by those same countries.

The selection of CAF’s Team of the Year without a single Nigerian player was indeed another opportunity for many Nigerians to conclude that politics was at play in the Africa XI.

But how many players does Nigeria have to contest with the choices? No doubt several of those chosen by CAF don’t merit to be on that list. Some are not even first team materials in their clubs. But what do we do? 

Even when we have Nigerians on the CAF ladder, they seem to be there to take care of their own interest. While the Francophone countries are ganging up to present one front, the Anglophones like us and Ghana are fighting each other for superiority. 

Even when it comes to voting for teams and players via sms, email, social media and tv, the other countries seem to be on top of the game while we are bickering over how much credit or data will take for us to vote. Yet we are very active on the social media to vent our spleen on perceived CAF injustice to us.

So with all this, do we have cause to complain? 

As an aside though, that best women team in Africa awarded to Nigeria seems dodgy to me. Or was CAF president Ahmad Ahmad just trying to ‘settle’ his friend Amaju Pinnick, the NFF president so we don’t go home empty handed? 

Whatever yardstick was used to make the two judgements of best male and best female teams does not look like the same to me and was definitely not the same for both. South African women qualified for the World Cup for the first time – World Cup – but they they didn’t win the female team award unlike Mauritania who only qualified for the men’s AFCON for the first time and that seemed like the reason they were chosen. Otherwise, countries like Libya, Cape Verde and Madagasca have put themselves right up there now in African football map.

Ok, Nigerian women beat South Africa in the final of the women AFCON on penalties but the Bayana Bayana actually defeated the Falcons by 1 – 0 in regulation time in their first group match of the competition. 

The S.A. female coach was named coach of the year and the scorer of the S.A. goal against the Falcons, Thembi Kgatlana won the best goal and female footballer of the year awards.

How then can CAF conveniently defend their award to the Nigerian team who were second best on the pitch, even in the final and the semi final against Cameroon?

Nigerians will not complain against such poor CAF judgement when it favours us.

But this is an aside O. 

There’s no doubt that Nigeria needs to play more and at a higher level when it comes to politics in football and sports in general at both continental and global levels.

Full list of winners at 2018 CAF Awards

African Player of the Year 
Mohamed Salah (Egypt & Liverpool)

Women’s Player of the Year 
Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa & Houston Dash) 

Youth Player of the Year 
Achraf Hakimi (Morocco & Borussia Dortmunmd) 

Men’s Coach of the Year
Herve Renard (Morocco) 

Women’s Coach of the Year 
Desiree Ellis (South Africa) 

Men’s National Team of the Year 
Mauritania

Women’s National Team of the Year 
Nigeria 

National Association of the Year 
Morocco 

Best goal in 2018
Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa & Houston Dash) 

Africa’s Best XI 

Denis Onyango – Serge Aurier, Mehdi Benatia, Eric Bailly, Kalidou Koulibaly, Thomas Partey, Naby Keita, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mohamed Salah.

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