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29.02.2004 Sports News

Confusion Trails African Footballer Of the Year Award

By Bode Ayodele
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Could CAF be confused over who to name the 2003 African Player of the Year? Will performances during the just-concluded African Nations cup held in Tunisia help determine the eventual winner? Why was the list of nominees trimmed down from five to three? Is this an indicator that CAF may discard the earlier elections billed for the announcement prior to the Nations Cup for fresh elections based on the list of three? These are just a few of the questions begging to be answered as the new April date for the presentation of the award in Yaounde, Cameroun, draws closer.

Other questions seeking for answers include who, out of Nigeria's Austin Okocha and Samuel Eto Fils of Cameroon - the two most-favoured players for the award - will eventually go home with the coveted prize? And did the soccer regulatory body name Okocha the Most Valuable Player of the Nations Cup to placate him, on the knowledge that he may lose out of the main prize?

The yearly CAF award has hardly been without suspense but probably not to the extent that this one seems to have generated among lovers of the game. And even among members of the regulatory body, who are expected to know better, there does not seem to be a consensus opinion over the issues at stake.

Aggrey Wolayo, former Secretary General of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and a CAF committee member seemed to have dropped the first hint that there is indeed a divided opinion on the matter, when he informed during the Nations Cup in Tunisia that there could be a fresh election to determine the eventual winner afterall.

According to Wolayo, the issue was brought up on the disagreement over who should actually determine the winner, and the argument that since there was a Nations Cup, the results should be announced after the event and should incorporate the players' performance during the event.

"Remember that the Nations Cup is a climax of what happened last year, a player could help his country qualify and end up fumbling at the tournament proper, the two can't be isolated," he explained.

"Some were of the opinion that it would not augur well for a particular player to be named as the African Footballer of the Year. It would, to an extent, affect the credibility of the award," he reasoned.

"That is why we resolved to trim the list of nominees down to three based on the first polls. Another election, for the three short-listed players would be used to determine the winner," he explained.

But CAF Media committee member, Nigeria's Paul Bassey, disagreed with the argument put forth by his fellow CAF member.

Rather, Bassey insisted that the just-concluded Nations Cup would in no way affect the results of the 2003 African Player of the Year Award since it fell into 2004.

He also stated that the results of the election held earlier but withheld due to the postponement would still be used, irrespective of the players' performance at the Nations Cup.

The Nations Cup is a 2004 event. CAF is clear on this and that is why the winner was determined before the event. The postponement has nothing to do with the Nations Cup; nothing at all," he stated.

Apparently, the confusion goes beyond CAF. In agreement with Paul Bassey, publisher of Kick-off, magazine Emeka Enyadike, said that it was probably to compensate Okocha that the regulatory body did not hesitate to name him MVP of the African Nations Cup, among other awards. (The Nigerian was also named man of the match in the Super Eagles versus the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun clash).

He said that Okocha might have lost out for 2003 but should only maintain his form to emerge favourite for the on-going year. Chris Eseka, however, stated that the midfield maestro will end up winning the awards back to back.

The Afrique Football magazine Golden Ball Award announced in February had named Eto'o Fils, Drogba and Okocha in that order.

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