This year’s CAF awards comes in the wake of the tragedy at Angola and Togo’s subsequent suspension giving a somewhat farcical quality to the announcements. The CAF president, Issa Hayatou as has already been established does not seem to live in reality. But more on the awards, especially the crown title.
Didier Drogba got a handy birthday gift when he was crowned African Footballer of the Year. This is his second time winning the honour having previously won in 2006. Drogba was instrumental in Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualification scoring five goals.
One of the criteria used is the player’s charisma and influence. There is no doubt that Drogba occupies a special place in the hearts of Cote D’Ivoirians, a vocal activist for unity, bringing together that fractious country. As captain of the national squad, he is very involved in operational aspects, for e.g., coaching decisions.
When the national association made contact with Guus Hiddink to ascertain his interest in coaching the team, Drogba took the initiative making a personal request to his ex-boss.
This aspect seems to have proved influential in winning him the title over the other front runner Samuel Eto’o, a three time winner but who has none of Drogba’s off field dynamism. Last year’s winner Emmanuel Adebayor was not even considered.
He also beat out his Chelsea team mate, Ghana’s Michael Essien, the Susan Lucci of nominations having never won. The other two nominees were Barcelona’s Seydou Keita (Mali) and Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) rounding out the dominance of the European leagues. Only Mohamed Aboutrika in recent years has broken that mold with his Al Ahly and Egypt exploits. He is also the only one outside the West Africa stranglehold.
Drogba gained from the the World Cup qualifying countries that had no footballer of the year nominees. South Africa, Nigeria, and Algeria gave him their maximum three votes.
He also was the candidate of choice from wider swaths of Africa whereas Eto’o benefited from more North African countries. Essien landed up as mostly third choice nominee after countries split their vote between Drogba and Eto’o. A number of sub Saharan countries went for Keita and Toure. A notable exception was Sudan who gave no votes to the two front runners dividing their votes between Keita, Toure, and Essien.
Drogba was not around in Accra to receive his award. Instead it was picked up by an Ivory Coast Football Federation official.