To the surprise of many, yesterday in Accra, Didier Drogba was awarded the Glo-CAF Player of the Year Award for the 2008-09 season.
While the Ivorian is certainly worthy of recognition for his excellent performances for both club and country last year, the choice is a strange one to say the least when you compare his achievements to those of Samuel Eto’o during the same time-frame.
In terms of trophies, it’s not even a contest. Drogba scored a crucial goal to help Chelsea lift the FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Everton while Eto’o was an absolutely vital element in an all conquering Barcelona team that vanquished all challengers on their way to being crowned Spanish League champions, Copa Del Rey winners, and European Champions League title holders. Keep in mind that the Cameroonian also kept alive the mind boggling statistic of scoring the first goal for his team in any final he’s ever featured in during last year’s historic campaign.
Furthermore, Eto’o did this while having to contend with an initially sceptical Pep Guardiola who he eventually won over by doing his talking on the pitch. If he had ended up staying with the Blaugrana then he likely would have gotten a Club World Cup gold medal too. Add to this the not so small factor of goals scored in all competitions at club level and the decision is even more bizarre: Didier Drogba’s injury troubles certainly affected his tally as he scored only 14 goals in 42 appearances while his counterpart maintained a scorching strike rate for the entire season with 36 goals in 52 appearances.
Meanwhile, at international level the same trend holds true. Naturally, given their high profiles, both players were huge factors in their respective national teams’ successful World Cup qualification campaigns but even though Cote d’Ivoire had a better year than Cameroon did as a team, Eto’o outclassed Drogba individually. The Blues representative hit the back of the net six times in qualifying, including the one in Malawi that booked the Elephants’ ticket to South Africa. On the other hand, Samuel Eto’o scored nine which include two winners in the double confrontation against Gabon that could have ended the dream for the Indomitable Lions as well as one in the final game in Morocco that was another must win encounter.
So what gives? How Did Drogba end up with more votes even though it is clear for all to see that Eto’o was the obvious choice? The lack of a reasonable explanation leaves no other conclusion other than to say that CAF is attempting to make up for their mistake of denying him the prize in 2007 and handing it to Mali’s Frederic Kanoute due to the Drogba’s understandable desire to forego attending the ceremony. At the time, all Drogba wanted was to remain in Ghana and focus on attempting to win the 2008 African Cup of Nations with his national side. Instead of being applauded for his commitment, he was punished.
This is essentially faulty patch up work by CAF and instead of admitting their mistake they’ve compounded it by adding another one. Unfortunately for them, two wrongs don’t make a right and any knowledgeable African or World football fan should be able to see through this without much effort. Drogba is a great player, no one is saying otherwise, but Samuel Eto’o was the best African player last year, there’s hardly an argument to make against it. How else would you explain that even in Abidjan my colleague Kingsley Kobo found that plenty of Ivorian fans were not convinced by the decision?
Simply put, in the year that Africa is at the forefront thanks to the upcoming World Cup in South Africa it is unfortunate that CAF continues to disappoint with their successive mistakes that generate nothing but scepticism about them as an organisation. But hey, maybe we should take solace in the fact that CAF still decided to give one of the three nominees the award even though none were on hand for the ceremony yesterday due to club commitments?
At the rate he’s going this current season, Drogba will probably deserve the award when it's time to vote again next year. However, given CAF’s latest misstep, one wonders whether he’ll actually receive the honour or be overlooked in favour of someone who was unjustly denied in a previous edition. And perhaps that player will be Samuel Eto’o after all…
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