Since 2013, no Nigerian has come close to being named African footballer of the year as Victor Moses is this year. In 2013, Mikel Obi’s performance in leading the Nigerian team to the African championship was considered enough to win the title of best African footballer.
Yet, he did not win the title. Instead, the title went to Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure. This year, Nigeria’s Victor Moses faces stiff competition from Egypt’s Mohammed Salah, Senegal’s Sadio Mane, and Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
I mention Salah, Mane, and Aubameyang because their goal scoring feats at both club and national team levels pose serious competition to Victor Moses’ hopes. It seems to me that in spite of Naby Keita’s supreme player at Leipzig, his play for his country (Guinea) pales in comparison to that of Moses. But if a player’s performance for his country is always weighted more significantly than his performance for his European club, there would be less worry for Moses.
Instead, in the past CAF has given the award largely based on what a player has done in Europe than what he has done for his African country. A travesty but that is the way CAF has gone in deciding the African footballer of the year. If that was not the case, Yaya Toure would not have won in 2013 over Mikel Obi.
Unfortunately, that outcome may be the burden that Victor Moses will bear in 2017. Sadio Mane has not done much for Senegal, historically, but he is the man at Liverpool FC in England and his performance at Liverpool earned him a nomination to the Ballon D’Or. He and Aubameyang were the only Africans receiving such lofty nomination. It is a nomination that the CAF voters are unlikely to ignore.
Aubameyang and Salah score regularly for their clubs and country and Salah has been critical to his country reaching the 2018 World Cup and Egypt playing in the final of the 2017 AFCON. That is a list of achievements that should not be easily waived aside.
Victor Moses, perhaps, even more than Salah has been responsible for Nigeria’s revival. He has led Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup with goals and his overall performance. Aubameyang has not produced anything similar to that for his African country in spite of his performance at Dortmund.
If CAF has duly linked its African footballer of the year title to performance at CAF-organized competitions, this title should be a contest only between Victor Moses and Mohammed Salah. Unfortunately, as I pointed out previously, that is not the case.
If CAF is not willing to elevate importance of its own competitions in the award of this individual title, then local federations can force a change. This change is not necessarily through policy but through media and old fashion persuasion of the CAF voters. There is no reason why the federations cannot reach the voters and the media with targeted campaigns for a deserving player.
This is the only way the sweat of players like Victor Moses who toil and produce for their African teams can be recognised above and over the media publicity accorded to those who score for their European clubs. Those media publicity go a long way in influencing voters and thus federations can counter that with their own persuasive arguments. It is time to act.