Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang was awarded with his first-ever African Player of the Year award by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The 26-year-old Gabon international rounded out a fantastic start to the year with 18 goals and 4 assists in just 17 games as Dortmund reached the midway point of the 2015-16 campaign in Germany. Understandably, he was all smiles after winning the prestigious award.
However, beaten finalists Yaya Toure of Ivory Coast and Andre Ayew of Ghana were less than impressed after CAF handed the award to the Dortmund striker; in fact, both players heavily criticized Africa’s governing body for soccer for failing to recognize their achievements in last year’s African Nations’ Cup in particular, in which both Ivory Coast and Ghana reached the final, with the former prevailing on penalties.
"I'm very, very disappointed. It's sad to see Africa react this way, that they don't think African achievements are important," Toure told RFI. "I think this is what brings shame to Africa, because to act in that way is indecent. But what can we do about it? Us Africans, we don't show that Africa is important in our eyes. We favor more what's abroad than our own continent. That is pathetic.”
The Manchester City midfielder added: "Normally, if you win the African Nations’ Cup and you are named among the 23 best players in the world, you think you will win this award. But I don't want to complain. I congratulate Aubameyang. He is a fantastic player and it is not his fault that this has happened.”
Toure then went on to compare the CAF to the ongoing FIFA scandal: “Even FIFA, with all its history of corruption, wouldn't do that," he huffed.
For his part, Swansea City forward Ayew told L’Equipe: “I wonder can someone to explain what is the criteria in a Cup of Nations year. It seems logical to me that the major competition of the continent considered in the verdict. The Euro would count for Europeans but the Cup of Nations would not count for Africans?” He continued: “Yaya and I were finalists at the Cup of Nations; he won, I finished top scorer. Then for our clubs, it was great as well – when I returned to Marseille (to finish the season) and I was also voted player of the month for August in England with Swansea. And Yaya, captain of the Elephants, had a good year too. So I thought it would be one of us...”
Well, unfortunately, for Toure and Ayew, six games in the hot African sun in January and February does not a year make. True, Aubameyang and Gabon had a poor African Nations Cup, bowing out in the first round, but for Toure and Ayew to ask that their entire year be judged solely -- or even mostly -- on a tournament that takes place in the first couple of months is completely ridiculous.
Soccer is a global game, folks, so when the CAF awards the African Player of the Year, it has to take into consideration all the African players playing abroad while examining the form they’ve exhibited throughout the entire year for both club and country. When you do that, and you compare these three players, the BVB’s Aubameyang comes out comfortably ahead of the other two.
Case in point: head to trusty soccer stats-keeper WhoScored.com. When you average the ratings each of these three players received in each of the competitions they’ve played in over the past two seasons, Aubameyang comes out on top with a 7.30 average rating, followed by Ayew with a 7.20, and Toure, with a 7.09. The Gabonese has also scored more goals (42) than each of his counterparts, combined (35).
So, for Toure to use words like “pathetic” and “shame” in describing CAF’s decision is both pathetic and shameful on his part. And for the City midfielder to say that not even FIFA, “with all its history of corruption”, would have done the same thing, is as wrong as it is inaccurate. Does anyone remember the 2014 Ballon d’Or, awarded one year ago to Portugal and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo despite the fact that he and Portugal bowed out of the 2014 World Cup in the first round? Manuel Neuer’s Germany and Lionel Messi’s Argentina were the World Cup finalists that year, and neither nation was awarded the sport’s top individual prize.
Indeed, with respect to Toure’s comments, Off The Post hasn’t seen grapes this sour since Kanye West at the Grammy’s. Not only was the Man City midfielder not Africa’s best soccer player last year, but the fact that he even appeared on the shortlist probably comes down mostly to Ivory Coast’s African Nations Cup win, during which he exhibited good, but not outstanding, form. That, folks, is the biggest irony of all.