The ceremony was scheduled for the Togolese capital Lome, a very short flying distance from Ghana where the African Nations cup is currently taking place. It was the annual event hosted by the Nigerian company Globacom to reward the most meritorious athletes in the African world of soccer. The event incurred the furor of coaches like Claude Le Roy of Ghana who could not understand how in the heat of the Nations cup, he will have to dispense with a player as crucial as Essien. Ghanaian players however found the event of significant importance and voted overwhelmingly for Essien to do African football honour by turning up.
Mali striker Frederic Kanoute was named the Glo-CAF Best Player for 2007 and became the second Malian after the legendary Salif Keita to receive the topmost individual prize in African football. He beat last year's winner Didier Drogba of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana's Michael Essien to the title.
At the well attended ceremony at the Palais des Congres in Lome, Togo on Friday; the announcement of Kanoute as the winner of the ultimate prize was greeted with chants and shouts from the enthusiastic crowd who had been anxiously waiting for that moment. Dressed in all-white Islamic attire, an overwhelmed Kanoute walked down the dais to receive his award from Togo Prime Minister, Komlan Mally, who was assisted by CAF President, Issa Hayatou.
Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast has however sparked a controversy with claims that he was robbed of the top spot because of his refusal to attend the ceremony in Togo. According to Drogba, Ivory Coast is in Ghana with the firm intention of winning the nations cup and it was out of respect for his team mates preparing for a crucial quarter final match that he decided to stay away from the event. Another reason which motivated his absence he claims, was the death of the son of team coach Ulich Stielke (Stielke left the Ivorian job on the eve of the nations cup to cater for his sick son). Drogba goes further to declare that he was willing to send his wife to represent him in case he backs the award but officials of the Confederation of African Football –CAF, insisted on having him present. A senior official of CAF he says threatened that his absence could cost him the award.
Irked by the fact that his absence cost him the award despite the fact that he had been notified of his selection as winner, Drogba says he does not wish to be considered for future awards.The attitude of CAF the Ivorian star says does not bring pride to African football. With the entire world focused on a tournament which ten years ago was not taken serious, CAF he said ought to portray a better image. CAF officials however have refuted the claims of Drogba though the media in Ivory Coast continues to believe Drogba was robbed of victory. It must be pointed out however that the top three per the classification of CAF Kanoute of Mali, Drogba of Ivory Coast and Essien of Ghana all had high profile performances with both clubs and country.
The Glo-CAF Awards 2007, sponsored by telecommunication giants, Globacom in collaboration with the continent's soccer controlling body, CAF rewards African footballers and officials who excelled during the year under review. In his welcome address, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr, assured of continued support for the development of football on the continent, and congratulated the founders of CAF for their vision and tenacity during the formative years.
Other award winners were Clifford Mulenga – Young Player of the Year, Cynthia Uwak – Female Footballer of the Year, Armine Cherimiti – Inter-Club Player of the Year, Yemi Tella 0f Coach of the Year, Etoile du Sahel – Club of the Year and Cote D'ivoire – National team of the Year.
The Glo-CAF Merit Order of Achievement went to former Black Stars of Ghana coach, Charles Kumi Gyamfi with the President of Togo, Mr Faure Gnasingbe receiving the Glo-CAF Platinum Award for 2007. Also, the top ten players in Africa during the last five decades were also honoured.
Nigerian celebrated highlife artist, King Sunny Ade, King Mensah from Togo, Vicky Sampson and trio group, Three Tons ensured guests had the best form of entertain during the award ceremony. This was the third time Globacom was sponsoring the annual awards ceremony.
Best Player of the Year – Frederic Kanoute
Young Player of the Year - Clifford Mulenga
Female Footballer of the Year – Cynthia Uwak
Inter-Club Player of the Year – Armine Chermiti (Etoile du Sahel)
Coach of the Year – Yemi Tella (won U-17 World cup with Nigeria)
Club of the Year – Etoile du Sahel
National team of the Year – Cote d'Ivoire
Best Suppporters Club – Ghana Supporters Club
Best Ten of the last 50 years
(Abedi Pele, Samuel Eto'o. Mahmoud El Khatib, Hossam Hassan, Roger Milla, Kalusha Bwalya, George Weah, Rabah Madjer, Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu)
Glo-CAF Merit Order of Achievement – Charles Kumi Gyamfi
Glo-CAF Platinum Award for 2007 – President Faure Gnasingbe
Meanwhile a press release issued later from CAF gave credence to the insinuations by Drogba that he may have been deprived by the award because of his absence. According to the release, the
executive Committee of CAF at its meeting held in Accra on February 1, decided that henceforth any player who is absent at its award ceremony will not be taken into consideration in its placements of best African footballer of the year. This decision was communicated to all those concerned on February 1, 2008 with particular reference to the award ceremony scheduled for Lome, Togo “Consequently, the nominees absent at Lome were excluded from consideration for the award of African footballer of the year 2007. It is the belief of CAF that the absence of a player at such an important event constitutes lack of respect for the institution, political authorities represented by our various heads of state and millions of African football followers worldwide”
The release goes on to add that “the choice of Lome for this year's event was not an accident due to its proximity from Ghana, 25 minutes by air from Accra and 40 minutes from Sekondi, making it accessible to all the nominees, and most of them did attend without having any negative impact to their future programmes here in Accra. This decision will apply to all award ceremonies that CAF will organize from now on.”
Reacting to claims of possible fatigue and lost of concentration used by some coaches and players as a ruse to stay away the release from CAF states that the approved date of February 1, was communicated to all parties as far back as December 15, 2007 taking into consideration the 72 hours (or more) interval and rest period available to all the teams and players after the group matches.