Many followers of football in Nigeria are still in shock as Chelsea’s Victor Moses failed to make the cut for the final three shortlist of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF)’s Footballer of the Year award.
During the week, CAF came out with the names of the last three nominees for its award slated for January 4 in Accra, Ghana, with the name of Moses missing. Sergio Mane, Muhammed Sallah and Pierre-Emerrick Aubameyang made the cut for the gong.
We want to emphasise that Sallah was very consistent in the first half of the year with Italian team, Roma, and after he joined Liverpool in the summer, he again stepped up his game. He has scored 20 goals in all competitions for the Reds and he is the leading scorer in the EPL with 14 goals. For Egypt, Sallah was a key figure as he scored five goals and assisted in two out of the seven goals that qualified the North Africans for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Also, Mane was the best player for Liverpool last season and the best for his country that also picked a ticket to the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Aubameyang was prolific by scoring 40 goals in all competitions in 2017 and won the German Cup with Borrussia Dortmund. He was the highest scorer in the German Bundesliga last season ahead of highly-rated stars like Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Rubben and Frank Ribbery.
We make bold to say that any Nigerian player aspiring to win the Africa Footballer of the Year award must first be the best or one of the best two players in his club and his league. For example, Sallah is currently the best player or one of the best two players in the English Premier League while Aubamayang is also one of the best in the Bundesliga.
We cannot say the same of Moses. No doubt, he did well in the team’s run, but he was not the most influential or the best performer in the team and in the league last season.
For the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s Footballer of the Year award, Chelsea and Moses were in the last five along with Egypt and Liverpool’s Sallah, RB Leipzig and Guinean midfielder, Naby Keita, Borussia Dortmund and Gabon forward, Aubameyang and Senegal /Liverpool’s Sadio Mane. Sallah won the award but, again, many Nigerians felt Moses was cheated.
It is important to evaluate situation without sentiments. We can say without fear or favour that Nigerian players were simply not good enough in the year under review.
We recall that Victor Ikpeba, in 1997 in the colours of Monaco, won the award ahead of Japhet Ndoram and fellow Nigerian, Taribo West. It was Nwankwo Kanu’s turn in 1999 as he won it ahead of Ibrahim Bakayoko of Cote d’Ivoire and Samuel Kuffour of Ghana.
18 years down the line, no Nigerian has won the award and this, we believe has affected the thinking of many followers of the game as they always want their countryman to be at the top.
On merit, it’s easy to evaluate athletes, especially footballers, because the statistics of every game will be there.
We are aware that due to club sentiments, nationality and preference to style of play, opinions are always divided on who wins the coveted Player of the Year award. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo was outstanding by winning the European Cup with Portugal and the Champions League with Real Madrid in the outgoing year, but some followers of the game preferred Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Ronaldo scored two goals for Real in the final of UEFA Champions League and he was a key figure in his country’s European glory.
The coaches and captains of national teams vote to help FIFA determine the winner, but it is interesting that they have different opinions, even when it is obvious that a particular player was exceptional. For the Ballon’ Dor and FIFA awards, some votes still went to Messi and even Neymar.
No doubt, the controversy on the nominations and eventual winners of this award at all levels will continue to recur over and over again.
The performance of the Super Eagles in the qualifying series of the Russia 2018 World Cup is a clear indication that Nigeria currently parades some of the best players on the continent. But it is time for these players to raise their game and be the best or among the best in their respective teams and leagues.
We believe it is embarrassing that despite the pedigree of the country in football on the continent, Super Eagles’ players remain on the back seat when it comes to the ultimate award in Africa.
The Russia 2018 World Cup is a big stage to perform well and be counted. We challenge the Super Eagles to double their efforts so that they can match the expectations of Nigerians who want to see them at the very top on the continent.
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