Tuesday, February 5, 2008

African Player of the Year Idiocy: Drogba? Kanoute?

A friend of mine suggested I inject more controversy into my blog this weekend. Well, how about this?

I think the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are shooting themselves in the foot over the awarding of the African Player of the Year award to Didier Drogba.

For those that don't know the story, let me summarize.

Star-striker Didier Drogba was supposedly told by members of the CAF that he'd won their prestigious African Player of the Year award this weekend. The award is voted on by national coaches from 53 African countries.

Unfortunately, Drogba couldn't attend the awards ceremony in Togo on Friday. He had more important issues to attend to. Namely, a quarterfinal match against Guinea in the African Cup of Nations in Ghana on Sunday.

"I was told if I didn't appear the rules would change and the prize would go to the runner-up," Drogba said.

The award did go to the runner-up, Mali striker Frederic Kanoute. No doubt Kanoute is a wonderful player. But Drogba had an excellent season. So the Chelsea striker and Ivorian captain decided to pull his name from all further contentions of the award.

"This attitude doesn't honor Africa so I've pulled out of future elections."

Drogba, who won the 2006 award, said it made no sense to have the awards ceremony in another country while such a high-profile African event was going on in Ghana.

"If I refused to go to Lome (in Togo) it was first for my team-mates, as you don't organise such an event just two days before a quarter-final," the Chelsea forward said.

"I didn't go as well because the son of Ulrich Stilieke (the former Ivory Coast coach) has died. We're all working for the African continent, there's a huge media presence in Ghana for a competition that was heavily criticised 10 years ago. So there comes a time when we all have to pull together."

Ivory Coast team spokesman Jean-Claude Djacus said, “CAF has brought itself into disrepute. They called Didier on the eve of the ceremony to tell him they would give the award to Kanoute if he did not come. Didier is now saying that he does not want to be part of the 2008 vote."

I couldn't agree more with Drogba.

How silly is it to have the awards ceremony take place in Togo while the Cup of Nations, the premier African footballing event, is happening in Ghana? While it's true that Tome is not far from Accra (about 118 miles away from my research), why have Drogba travel that distance a mere two days before an important quarterfinal?

Why not hold the ceremony in Accra or another city in Ghana to allow Drogba the chance to be present?

This is another example of the CAF shooting themselves in the foot. From my outsider perspective, it's almost as if the CAF wants to remain insular. The CAF doesn't care what the outside world thinks.

You'd imagine the CAF would want to give the award to their best player, not the runner-up. This isn't to say Kanoute isn't a wonderful player. I love watching him at Sevilla and rate him an efficient striker. I'm not trying to disrespect Kanoute. I'm just trying to say that he finished in 2nd place. The award should go to Didier. And Didier couldn't make it because he was preparing for an important match. How could the CAF do what they did?

Drogba is pure class, out-and-out one of the top 3 strikers in the world when on form. Why not promote this fine talent? Why snub him during your premier tournament?

This should be a time for celebration, not for dissension. Why put these players in this position?

Ghana midfielder Michael Essien took time out from preparing with Ghana for their Sunday quarter-final with Nigeria in nearby Accra to attend the dinner.

Initially he had been refused permission to go by Claude Le Roy, but the Ghana coach relented after pressure from Essien's team-mates.

Good that he came. But imagine if Ghana had lost. You think fans and pundits wouldn't call Essien selfish for going?

Can anyone blame Drogba for not going?

Shame on the CAF for blundering this awards ceremony.

1 comment:

Brad said...

I'm not sure where I fall on this debate yet. What Drogba claims does not match up with the statements that CAF released today. Someone is not telling the truth. CAF's spin is that Drogba was not the winner and then stripped of the title because of not attending like Drogba claims, but rather that someone who doesn't attend is ruled as ineligible and Kanoute was the rightful winner.