African Footballer Of The Year Award is handed out each year signifying the best footballer on the African continent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go to the most deserving player at times. The award often goes to the most popular individual during the period in review.
As history has shown, attacking players and goal scorers are more likely to win the Award than those who keep the ball out of the back of the net. Not only has the award, handed out since 1970, been given to more attacking players, but it typically goes to men from Francophone region.
But what about those men beaten out for the award? Which Nigerian players should have won the award? Below are those unlucky ones.
Segun Odegbami – 1980
In 1980, Shooting Stars won the Nigeria Premier League and Super Eagles were crowned Africa Cup of Nations winners. Forward Segun Odegbami was the driving force. In spite of his brilliance, he never won the African Footballer of the Year Award. His best finish came in 1980 as runner-up to Cameroon’s Jean Manga-Onguéné who didn’t play at the Cup of Nations.
Manga-Onguéné’s choice as winner was a shock. The Cameroonian was a great player. However, it is debatable that he was the best African player in 1980.
Jay Jay Okocha – 1998
In 1998, entertaining playmaker Jay Jay Okocha was at the top of his game. The Nigerian was in the prime of his career. He left the international scene in 2006.
The midfielder had won Trophée des Champions at Paris Saint Germain and was Africa’s best player at the FIFA World Cup in France. He finished second in the 1998 version to Morocco’s Mustapha Hadji.
For years, Okocha was the best attacking midfielder in Africa and helped Nigeria win trophies, yet voters managed to give the award to Hadji. It was clearly a case of sentimental attachments on the part of the voters.
Jay Jay Okocha – 2003 and 2004
You have to feel bad for Super Eagles legend Jay Jay Okocha. The midfielder had great times with Bolton Wanderers and Nigeria but never got the respect he deserved. He was third in 2003 and 2004 respectively. If the magician was playing today the story might have been different.
John Obi Mikel – 2013
Mikel was the best midfielders on one of the underrated teams at the 2013 AFCON. Nigeria eliminated Yaya Toure’s Cote d’Ivoire on their way to winning the Tournament. In spite of the success Mikel found on the football pitch, winning the Europa League in 2013, he lost out.
The 2004 award went to Cote d’Ivoire star Yaya Toure.
Vincent Enyeama – 2014
Enyeama was an reliable player in his prime. He had incredible organization, reflexes, and accuracy that few other Goalkeepers in the game possessed in from 2010-2015.
During the 2013/14 French Ligue 1 campaign, Lille manager René Girard picked Enyeama as his first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Steeve Elana, who had previously been the first-choice goalkeeper under Rudi Garcia. With the help of his two center-backs, Marko Baša and Simon Kjær, Enyeama kept 11 consecutive clean sheets in Ligue 1 matches during the first half of the season.
He also helped Nigeria qualify for 2014 World Cup and pushed them to second round, the best from any African country in Brazil.
The AFOY went to Yaya Toure. Vinny finished third.
Ademetan Abayomi has always dreamt of being a sports journalist. His journey began 11 years ago when he created my first sports news page on Facebook, called “Futball Galore” and from there on his passion for sports journalism grew stronger. Now, he is a Sports News Reporter and Feature Writer where he strives to add value and learn as much as he can.
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