By Samuel Haase.
On December 22, the 2011 African Footballer of the Year will be announced. So who will be receiving an early Christmas present, and who will be going home empty handed?
The shortlist was announced earlier this month, and with the award soon to be announced I thought it was time to investigate into this coveted award further. Formerly known as the France Football Award, the recognition of the best African footballer began in 1970, with Laurent Pokou of the Ivory Coast and Abougreisha of Egypt sharing the award. The now recognised African Footballer of the Year took over solely in 1995, with arguably Africa’s most well known player, George Weah, picking up the trophy that year. Over the years the award has been shared between many different countries throughout Africa, but it is Cameroon who come out on top, with 12 African Player of the Year trophies to their name, whilst Samuel Eto’o has won the award a record 4 times and is currently the reigning holder of the trophy. But who is up for the award this year, any surprises, and is there a new winner in our midst? Let’s find out.
The shortlist contains 10 African players, all plying their trade in Europe:
- Adel Tarabt – QPR & Morocco
- Andre Ayew – Marseille & Ghana
- Asamoah Gyan – Al-Ain (On loan from Sunderland) & Ghana
- Didier Drogba – Chelsea & Ivory Coast
- Kevin-Prince Boateng – AC Milan & Ghana
- Moussa Sow – Lille & Senegal
- Samuel Eto’o – Anzhi Makhatchkala & Cameroon
- Seydou Keita – Barcelona & Mali
- Gervinho – Arsenal & Ivory Coast
- Ya Ya Toure – Manchester City & Ivory Coast
So there you have this years nominees, but who is going to pick up this years award?
The likes of Didier Drogba have had a disappointing season by his standards, only scoring 11 league goals in the 2010-11 season, as opposed to 29 league goals in the previous term, possibly counting him out of the running this year.
One of the surprise packages not only for myself but also for football fans all around was YaYa Toure. Although highly regarded throughout football, I don’t think many fans would have expected him to be the instant success he was at Manchester City last season, scoring the vital FA Cup Semi-Final winner against bitter rivals Manchester United and the all important FA Cup Final winner. Not bad for a first season in English football.
Andre Ayew is a relatively new talent to the world of football. Nominated for the Young Footballer of the Tournament at the 2010 World Cup, Ayew also played a huge role in leading Ghana on a historic journey in which they reached the Quarter-Finals, narrowly missing out on the Semi’s. We may even see him in the Premier League soon as Arsene Wenger has shown a strong interest in the 22-year-old Ghanaian.
Like Ayew, Moussa Sow is a new talent that has been unearthed in football, going about his work effectively. Sow was instrumental in Lille winning the French national title last year, contributing 25 goals to the cause and picking up the Ligue 1 golden boot. He has started this season in the same form as last year, netting regularly in the league, Champions League and African Cup of Nations qualifiers. His work hasn’t gone un-noticed like Ayew, with Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger registering an interest in the 25-year-old. Rated as one of Africa’s top prospects
Asamoah Gyan shot to fame at the 2010 World Cup, like his Ghanaian counterparts Sow and Ayew, earning a big money move to the Premiership, under the guidance of Steve Bruce at Sunderland. Like Drogba, Gyan is possibly not in main contention for the award due to not quite reaching the form many expected of him. He has also not helped his cause by opting for a big money move (he is reported to be earning up to £6million during his loan spell!) to the UAE, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many Sunderland fans.
Reportedly becoming the highest earning footballer in the world after his surprise move to Russia (Dagestan, no less), Samuel Eto’o as ever is a strong contender for the award. With one of his best seasons to date, Eto’o scored 37 goals in all competitions last year for Inter Milan, helping them reach a Champions League Quarter-Final, whilst also scoring 2 goals in the Italian Cup Final, which Inter subsequently won. With 4 titles already to his name, it is hard to look past him, or is it time for change?
Not the most reliable of figures, most notably temporarily retiring from international when being dropped, Adel Tarabbt had a terrific season last year, being named Football League Player of the year and scoring 19 goals. His commitment to the national side may go against him, but he is an exciting player to watch and the Moroccan faithful will be counting on him to perform in the African Cup of Nations.
A livewire that can produce something out of nothing, Kevin-Prince Boateng earned a move to AC Milan, winning the Italian League title there last season. May have ruled himself out by retiring from international football at the tender age of 24, but nonetheless is a terrific player with plenty of talent.
A quiet man that is not one to take the accolades, Seydou Keita is Mali’s shining star, coming out of retirement to help them reach the African Cup of Nations. With 56 appearances to his name in the 2010/11 season, he made more appearances than any other Barcelona player. To feature that regularly in arguably the greatest club side the world has ever seen is saying something, possibly a surprise package that could pick up his first African Player of the Year trophy.
And last, but by no means least, we have Gervinho. Again, another African player who earned a move to the English Premiership this summer after his hard work paid off. He was one of the most influential players in the Lille side that went onto win the French Ligue 1 title, alongside his former team-mate Andre Ayew. Many would argue that he has yet to shine in the Premiership this term, but it is still early days and I believe we are yet to see the best of him.
Just going through this list of players outlines the superb talent that Africa has to offer, even missing out great players like Kolo Toure, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and many more. It goes to show that the state of African football has improved dramatically in recent years, consolidated by the performances of the likes of Ghana and the Ivory Coast at the 2010 World Cup. There is much good work going on in terms of developing football on the African continent and bringing young prospects into the game. Players such as these mentioned have given an exciting platform for the continent to build on, whilst also creating role models for other young players – in Africa, and around the world. And just finally, what about my predictions for the winner?
I think it’s going to be between YaYa Toure and Seydou Keita, but what do I know? Make sure you keep look out for the winner on December 22nd 2011.