The 2018 AITEO CAF Awards has come and gone but it has left a bitter taste in the mouth of Nigerians at the end of the festivities due to the exclusion of all Super Eagles stars for the top awards.
Nigeria, as we know, is a football-loving nation and one could say that the sport is in itself a religion to the populace as amidst the ethnic, cultural, political and economic issues in the country, football seems like the only avenue for our giant nation to be truly united whenever any of our national teams both the men and women sides are representing the green-white-green of our great country.
The Award ceremony emanated from Dakar, capital of Senegal saw Egypt and Liverpool’s forward Mohammed Salah and Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa/Houston Dash) emerge as the African Footballer of the year in the male and female category. Achraf Hakimi of Morocco got the Youth player of the Year award as Herve Renard and Desiree Ellis clinched the coach of the year for men and the women.
Africa’s Best eleven included; Denis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns/Uganda), Serge Aurier (Tottenham/Ivory Coast), Medhi Benatia (Juventus/Morocco), Eric Bailly (Manchester United/Ivory Coast), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli/Senegal); Naby Keita (Liverpool/Guinea), Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid/Ghana), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City/Algeria); Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal/Gabon), and Sadio Mane (Liverpool/Senegal) with Banyana Banyana Striker Chrestinah ‘Thembi’ Kgatlana getting another award in the CAF Goal of the Year category for her goal against Nigeria in Group B game at Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Mauritania won the award for the best men’s national and Nigeria got her only award of the night as our women were crowned once again as the best women’s national team. This rundown of events has caused an uproar amongst the Nigerian populace as to why our footballers are not vying for the continents biggest individual accolades as well as those for the best coach which are in a way determined by the performance of players for the national team and in the local leagues.
Why does it seem that Nigerian players cannot compete with the likes of Salah, Mane, Koulibaly, Mahrez, Aubameyang and the rest of the CAF XI? For the women, can we say that Kgatlana is better than all we have in our ranks?
Or should Nigerians even complain in the first instance because when you look at it you can’t really say that Herve Renard had a phenomenal year as the coach of the Atlas Lions as even Senegal’s Aliou Cisse and our own Gernot Rohr had a better showing at the World Cup than the man who won the accolade, while the likes of AS Vita’s Florent Ibenge won the Linafoot as well as finishing as runners up in the CAF Confederation Cup and Esperance’s gaffer Moine Chabani won the League and Champions League Double which begs the question ‘How is Herve Renard the best Men’s Coach of the Year’?
Let us also take a look at the Women’s Coach of the Year, does Desiree Ellis winning the award mean that Thomas Dennerby isn’t doing an awesome job as the coach of the Super Falcons taking into consideration the fact that Nigeria won the AWCON with South Africa finishing as runners up.
You can look at other award categories like the CAF eleven, and the final three for the men’s player of the year award, Yes, there was no Nigerian on the list but that doesn’t mean that the Ghanaian, Ivorian, Moroccan or the Senegalese men’s national teams are better than ours or that they did better than us in 2018 because they didn’t as we also qualified for the Nations Cup and just like Senegal and Morocco, exited the World Cup at the Group Stages.
It also doesn’t mean that these countries with players bagging awards produce better football talents than we do, what Individual awards just shows is that Nigerian footballers should improve on their performance as players and aspire to win individual awards as well as trophies for the team, Moreover you can see that the awards were split amongst different African countries as no single country dominated the ceremony.
So essentially there is no need to cry as a result of of the CAF awards as individual awards in no way translate to the success or failure of the national team or the local league as such awards goes solely to the individual which means that Nigerian Footballers should aspire and work harder to be better in the game as no matter the amount of individual stars in a team, the ultimate joy for Nigerians is victory for our Nigerian sides both National and club teams.