“And the winner of the Glo CAF African Player of the year 2008 is….. Emmanuel Adebayor.” When 52 African coached were asked to select the best African player in the year 2008, they settled on Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal. I almost chocked on my breath when the Arsenal forward was announced as winner. What the …. Is going on here?! This is parody of the African talent!!!...I screamed. How could they? This is unfair! Emmanuel Adebayor does not deserve to be Africa’s best player in 2008.
With all due respect to Adebayor, he is one of the best talents to have come from Africa in this generation and we all acknowledge it. However if we want the best African footballer in 2008, he does not come close to many other African players, let alone the three short-listed players. It is a shame he is the chosen one and we all have to stick to the choice of the coaches. Some will say the coaches know better, that one also, I acknowledge, but I beg to disagree with them on this matter.
What did all African players do in 2008? Two things. They played for their club and played for their nations. Additionally, they did some politically correct things including media manoeuvres to make them look good.
All African players, regardless of location, had the chance to feature for their clubs in the respective national leagues, domestic cups, continental champions leagues, continental super cups and the FIFA intercontinental club championship. Of the three shortlisted players, no one needs a degree in rocket science to know that Egyptian Mohammed Aboutrieka featured consistently in almost all matches of his team in these cups in 2008 and aided Al-Ahly to sweep as many cups in different competitions as possible – League, champions league, super cup. Also, both in England and in Europe, Essien stood taller than Adebayor. Essien assisted his team to beat Adebayor’s Arsenal on the league table last year. He also anchored his team through to the finals of the UEFA Champion’s League.
Yes, the English Premier League (EPL) may be weighted a zillion points higher than the Egyptian league, but to have a home grown player, playing at home and helping his team to do enough to appear in the highest club competitions in Africa and in the world alone, speaks volumes. Which domestic cup did Adebayor win last season? Clearly, when it comes to club-level soccer for 2008, Adebayor falls far behind Aboutrieka and Essien.
National Level Football
In 2008, all African players had the chance to be called into their national teams. While on national assignment, they had the chance to feature in friendly games, World Cup (WC)/African Nations Cup (ANC) qualifiers and the African Nations Cup (ANC) in Ghana.
Year 2008 began with the nations cup in Ghana. All the countries and players that mattered in African football in year 2007, made an appearance to stake a claim for year 2008. While Emmanuel Adebayor and his Togolese team were watching the tournament on pay-per-view TV, Michael Essien of Ghana and Mohammed Aboutrieka of Egypt were there in action; showing the world what talent we have in Africa.
After featuring in 6 undefeated games, Aboutrieka capped a wonderful tourney with the winning goal against Cameroun. Of course Aboutrieka, was on target 4 times during the ANC, placing second after Samuel Eto’o and getting himself listed in the best 11 players of the tournament. Let Adebayor show us his 2008 ANC record, then he can come close to feeling proud of his award.
Some will say Adebayor helped Togo to play in friendly games and ANC /WC qualifiers. Yes he did, we all know, but so did Essien and Aboutrieka. Official records from FIFA triple my impression that Adebayor’s selection has been most unfair. Friendly games aside, Adebayor featured for Togo 3 times in competitive games. He scored 4, all of which were scored in one match against lowly-placed Swaziland? Aboutrieka on the other hand, featured in 8 competitive games for Egypt in 2008 and scored 6 times in 5 different games ( 2 against Sudan; 1 against Ivory Coast; 1 against Cameroun; 1 D.R. Congo and 1 against Dzibouti). Although Michael Essien of Ghana featured in 11 competitive games for Ghana and scored 2 times, injuries did not allow him to completer the year. So let us grant for the sake of argument that even though Adebayor cannot compare himself to Essien in terms of contribution to National Team, he was not in contention due to the injury. This, thus leaves us with Adebayor and Aboutrieka.
Clearly, Aboutrieka is miles ahead of the Arsenal forward. Never in the history of modern African football (post 1990) have Africans seen such a consistent performer moulded and established on the African soil. What is even more intriguing is that, Aboutrieka has achieved all these playing for an Egyptian side which cannot boast of the facilities, salary packages, paramedics and other incentives available to Adebayor and Essien in their respective clubs.
How on earth will anybody compare Aboutrieka’s achievements in 2008 (ANC, Egyptian league title, CAF champion’s league, CAF super cup, a place in the intercontinental club championship) with Adebayor’s (scoring 20-something goals for Arsenal in a year where midfielders were scoring 40+ goals, ……)? Probably, because the EPL has a wider TV coverage and because in the course of the year, Adebayor mounted a good number public relations platforms across Africa, he bought into the emotional side of CAF and the coaches who elected him King of African Football – 08.
But rationally, I am inclined think CAF and the coaches have insulted the African talent and belittled the ability of players plying their trade on the African continent. Can’t an exceptional domestic player win the award too. If after all Aboutrieka’s contribution to the game in Africa, his much-deserved award has been given to a player who contributed PRACTICALLY NOTHING to the African game in the year under review, then what motivation exists for up-coming players? No player plying his trade in Africa is good enough? Must a player move to Europe before he is seen as a good player? I think the coaches who elected Adebayor should bow their heads in shame. As for Adebayor, he is a good player and I am sure his best is yet to come. He has been chosen and we will all have to congratulate him and live with it. He can enjoy his award and have his party all year round. BUT, I will pick Aboutrieka on any day for the 2008 award and I know I am not alone.
Maybe, just maybe…there is something else used to determine the best player in Africa and not the football matches the African players play. If anyone knows of this other criteria, Please pass it to me. If not, then I think CAF is up to something ….