The yearly ceremony for the award of Best African Footballer of the Year is upon us again.
Leicester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)
How quickly time flies. Was it not ‘yesterday’ that Yaya Toure angered a lot of people by raising unwanted dust by discrediting the process of last year’s selection (the same process that made him a winner an unprecedented four consecutive times) when Pierre Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund FC and Gabon was selected ahead of him?
For this year’s event that will come up in January 2017 in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has released a preliminary list of 30 African players for the award.
That number will be pruned down through nomination and voting by all the national team coaches of the member federations in Africa.
The eventual winner will only be revealed during the award ceremony supervised by CAF officials and an international verification agency.
The event has become a yearly feast of the best of African entertainment on a platform that provides opportunity for camaraderie and networking for all African football stakeholders.
Every year it has become an exciting game for analysts, pundits and commentators predicting, who will win the most prestigious individual trophy in African football.
There is usually no problem when the final choice matches the majority choice of football followers. But the occasional ‘disagreement’ occurs to stir up some controversies, as was the case last year when Yaya Toure added salt to injury by accusing CAF of bias and poor judgment in the choice of Aubameyang ahead of him.
Yaya’s reaction will definitely influence this year’s event as the process will be more meticulous than ever before, particularly in the apparent absence of one clearly outstanding player.
Indeed, in 2016 there has been a dearth of one truly exceptionally gifted and consistently performing player in the mold of Samuel Eto Fils, George Opong Weah, Yaya Toure and Abedi Pele, when they won the event. Everyone I have looked at closely attracts a little comma.
Looking again through the 30-man list this year reveals the following:
Yaya Toure’s era has come to a resounding halt with the conspicuous absence of his name; last year’s winner, Pierre, is an unlikely winner because Gabon has not played enough matches in 2016 (they automatically qualify as host of the 2017 African Cup of Nations) and Borussia Dortmund have been struggling this season; the winner will come from Europe once again; and the winner will most likely be new.
So, in looking into the list, only a few players’ names are popping up on my radar as a possible winner. Permit me go through a few.