A 'European' shouldn't be Africa's Player of the Year
The annual ritual of selecting Africa's best players and rewarding them is upon us again.
On 20 December 2012, the Caf-Glo Awards will be held. The ceremony recognises the footballers of African descent who have provided some of the best football in the past year.
The African Footballer of the Year Award usually goes to a male player of African origin, who may play anywhere in the world but must also play in Africa.
There is a second award given out at the ceremony, designed as a political response to an important issue that comes up every year. It is the “other” Caf African Footballer Award.
It was introduced a few years ago to placate African players on the continent, who have been shut out from the main award by Europe-based African professionals. These are players who play very little on the continent but qualify by virtue of their being of African descent and may be playing in their national teams (or not).
The truth is that this second award is 'second division'. It attracts very little interest and respect beyond the ceremony of its presentation. It is cosmetic, of little relevance and does not register in the minds of the public.
We can look at examples from other continents and draw some conclusions.
Lionel Messi is an Argentinian (South America). He plays in La Liga for Barcelona, a Spanish club (Europe). He is not of European origin. Yet he is a past winner of the European Player of the Year Award. He earned the honour through his performances in domestic and international CLUB matches in Europe.
David Beckham is an Englishman. He has been playing for Galaxy in the US for a few years. Had he played for an England in that period, would he ever have been considered or nominated for European Player of the Year?
Here is another hypothetical situation. Can a Chinese footballer, playing for Manchester United and representing China at international matches, be considered for European Player of the Year? Yes! Could he also be considered as 'Asian Player of the Year', even if he is Asian by origin? No!
The geographical space where a player plays his domestic CLUB football seems to be the key element for consideration, not the country of origin, or national team performance.
It is clear we, in Africa, have not adopted the methodology of Europe or any of the other continental bodies for that matter, even though we once did.
We are faced with a strange situation in the 2012 African Awards. The final three players listed have played very little football on the continent. They took part in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) of 2012. Since then there have only been the few recent qualifying matches for Afcon 2013.
These are national team matches. There are hardly enough games to make fair and good judgement.
Drogba and Toure played for Ivory Coast in Afcon 2012, a championship where they were not the most outstanding. Beyond Afcon 2012 I cannot recall anything both players did until the qualifying rounds of Afcon 2013. The less said about Song the better. I do not recall anything he did for African football. His country did not even qualify for Afcon 2013. So, where did his name come from?
So, are we using their domestic club matches in Europe to reward them in Africa? Their domestic club matches already provide them the opportunity to win the European Player of the Year Award. That’s where they belong.
The African continent's top award should go to players whose performances for CLUB football on the African continent are worthy. This will surely help the development of the game and the players on the African continent.
The only reason players who are doing well in domestic African football never get a look-in for the main African Player of the Year Award is commercial. Sponsors want the big names in order to draw attention and get an audience at the awards.
In the future Africa should rethink the selection criteria and process of awarding its best player award. Rather than create a second award that is less prestigious and diminishes the respect accorded Africa-based players, Caf should create a non-competitive award for the foreign-based players, give it a fabulous name, and use it to keep their sponsors happy.
Caf should give most prestigious continental award to the 'locals', who have earned and deserve it.