Africa needs to respect itself to gain respect from others

By Kiberu Sharif

With the CAF Awards coming up I thought of getting some things off my chest. I love and believe in African football and I think it has a lot of potential to grow. In fact I watch 95% African football (Zambia of course with the biggest share).

However I feel Africa is still enslaved not the issue of the fans watching European football no not that, I mean it’s a good product and if I were in their shoes I would do the same.

How can you even expect the fans not to love European football when the best player in Africa is picked based on their performance in Europe? Strange right?, Why is it so? I also have no idea.

CAF have their competitions and the biggest is AFCON. One would think your performance at AFCON will be a big factor in you being named Africa’s best player in that year but it is not so.

From L-R: Sadio Mane, Mohammad Salah and Pierre Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are vying for the 2018 African Player of the year award

TRIKA INJUSTICE

Egyptian and African legend Mohamed Aboutrika has never won the accolade but has won everything that a player can win on this continent.

But hey! He never played for Arsenal or any other European team. In 2008 he lost to a player (Emmanuel Adebayor) who never even qualified to AFCON in an AFCON year.

In 2008 King Trika won the AFCON, CAF Champions League with Al Ahly, Egyptian premier league and Egyptian Super Cup plus was Egypt top goalscorer with 4 goals at AFCON (only second to Eto’o who had 5) and second top goalscorer for Al Ahly in Champions League.

He also made it to the AFCON team of the tournament . BBC named him their 2008 African footballer of the year.

The person he lost to, Emmanuel Adebayor failed to make it to AFCON with his Togo teammates in a group that had Mali, Benin and Seirra Leone. In the 2007/08 English Premier League season, he scored 24 goals and 10 in the 2008/09 edition, but won nothing for Arsenal and Togo.

This was the biggest injustice in the history of African football. Least I forget Yaya Toure who won four straight awards (2011-2014) for playing in Europe. In 2012 it was for Stophila Sunzu, Rainford Kalaba or Christopher Katongo but hey they never played for Manchester City.

The Ivorian even had the audacity to throw a tantrum after he lost to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2015 after he had won the last four before then based on the same criteria.

“I’m very, very disappointed. It’s sad to see Africa react this way, that they don’t think African achievements are important,” he said to the French radio station RFI.

“I think this is what brings shame to Africa, because to act in that way is indecent. But what can we do about it? Us Africans, we don’t show that Africa is important in our eyes. We favour more what’s abroad than our own continent. That is pathetic.” (The Guardian 8 January 2016).

Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Samuel Etoó (Cameroon) have all won the African Player of the year

TUESDAY’S AWARDS

Mohamed Salah is the front runner and deservedly so, forget his Liverpool form. He led Egypt to the World Cup after a 27 year absence as their top goalscorer with 5 goals. When he got injured we all saw how things turned out for them at the tournament. He had to come from injury to score their first goal at the tournament.

His Liverpool performance is just a bonus though I still have no idea what Aubameyoung is doing on that list.

GOING FORWARD

For Africa to command respect it must first respect itself. There is no way the BBC award is more realistic than that handed out by the body that runs African football. CAF does not run EPL, La Liga or any of those leagues hence it should only come in as a last resort.

A player should be judged on AFCON, World Cup qualifiers, World Cup, CAF Champions League, CAF confederation Cup then the respective league in which they play. Playing for Arsenal or Man City should not win you player of the year ahead of deserving players.

Africa wake up and take your place at the World table but before then learn to respect yourself.

Aaron Mubanga Jnr is a Zambian football blogger / Footballers and allied workers Union of Zambia PR with interest mainly in African football

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