INDIVIDUAL awards in team sports are divisive because they tend to be biased towards certain types of players.
Goalkeepers and defenders are hardly honoured because they don't steal the show like offensive players do. The reason is simple, as Eduardo Galeano wrote, the goal is football's fiesta, the strikers (and other attack-minded players) spark delight and the goalkeepers (along with other defensive players) are a wet blanket; they snuff it out.
In the history of the PSL's Footballer of the Year award, which started in the 2007/08 season, only three defensive players have been winners thus far. All three were part of league-winning teams but there have been attack-minded players who have won it without winning anything with their clubs.
And then there are the CAF awards that are not only biased towards attack-minded players but it seems they look down upon the continent. It's ironic as their aim is to celebrate African excellence but they only highlight African excellence that ply their trade in Europe.
The reigning African Footballer of the Year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, spent something like two minutes on the continent because his Gabon side didn't do much in 2015. The Borrusia Dortmund forward won the award ahead of Yaya Toure who had guided the Ivory Coast to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) crown. Toure, who doesn't appreciate people forgetting his birthday, didn't take the snub well. He had a rant about how Africa was disrespected by the decision to overlook an Afcon winner. He was right, and if you use his logic, then he didn't deserve most of the four Footballer of the Year awards he had won before Aubameyang ended his reign.
CAF has tried to address this with the Africa-based Footballer of the Year award. But it is disrespectful. It gives the idea that those based on the continent are not worthy of winning the ultimate prize. There have been plenty of performances from players based on the continent worthy of the main prize.
To put things in perspective, Mohammad Aboutrika, Mohammad Barakat Tresor Mputu, Rainford Kalaba and Chris Katongo, who captained an unfancied Zambian side to Afcon glory, all deserve the main prize. For crying out aloud, Aboutrika led Al-Ahly to the 2013 CAF Champions League title when there was no domestic football in Egypt because of political instability. Yet the Red Devils did enough to be kings of the continent with Aboutrika at the heart of that inspiring success. His reward: well, he won the Africa-based Footballer of the Year award while Toure bagged the main prize in a year when the golden generation of the Elephants continued waddling without direction in search of the Afcon.
CAF should scrap the Africa-based award and only have the Footballer of the Year award that seeks to properly reward excellence. If the bigwigs want to rub shoulders with the Europe-based stars, then they can introduce a foreign-based Footballer of the Year award. If the people in charge of running football don't respect success on the continent, then we have a serious problem. Winning the Champions League is a daunting task that tests not only a player's talent but his mental strength too.
There is the hectic travelling with plenty of hours spent in transit, dealing with hostile environments and playing on some of the roughest pitches in the world. Anyone who comes out of that experience with the biggest prize deserves proper recognition.
Fifa does a good job with its awards that should rather be called Europe awards, with the rest of the world given a small, supporting role. Herve Renard wasn't even shortlisted for the Coach of the Year award despite leading Chipolopolo to their maiden Afcon beating a star-studded Ivory Coast team. Arsene Wenger was on the shortlist because of the many trophies he won with Arsenal in 2012.
Oh, wait. We aren't likely to win that battle. So we should instead have our own awards. When I look at the long list of the CAF Footballer of the Year award, there are plenty of local-based players who deserve to win it. This isn't because of the large number of South African-based players nominated but because of the good performances we have seen in Afcon qualifiers, the CAF Confederation Cup and the Champions League.
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