Osasu Obayiuwana: Do CAF awards dishonour more than they honour?

Having taken a firm position, over a month ago, against the selection of Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure as the BBC African Footballer of the Year, it would be no shock to regular readers of this column that I am in complete disagreement with his receipt of the official title in Lagos, Nigeria, last Thursday.

The argument put forward in my December 5 piece, “What is an African performance worth?” hasn’t changed a jot.

So, I will turn my attention to other matters of concern at last week’s CAF awards ceremony.

The strange, inexplicable decision to dishonour the women’s game at the event, by not having a female African Player of the Year, is at the top of the list.

That unpardonable omission flows into the ceremony’s complete lack of regard for those who have made and continue to make a significant contribution to women’s football.

It is mind-boggling that the effort of the continent’s female players and coaches can treated so shabbily by the very body supposed to be at the forefront of driving their development.

No explanation – not that there is a credible one to offer – has been made by CAF’s secretariat, for its decision to ‘forget’ the women’s game in Lagos.

Knowing the way in which they ‘communicate’, I do not expect that one will ever be given.

Lydia Nsekera, the Burundian who sits on the CAF board as a non-voting member, by virtue of her FIFA executive committee position, has the unenviable task of fighting the cause of the African women’s game, in what is clearly a very hostile environment.

As she admitted to me at the 2012 Olympics, “there are people [in Africa] who even question the rationale for funding female football… We do not take female football in Africa seriously enough.”

Achieving her objectives at the FIFA level is tough enough, where a radical change in attitude, in a male-centred environment, is desperately required.

But FIFA’s awards wouldn’t dare ignore the women’s game in the shameful, shocking way that CAF has done.

Another point of controversy, at least for me, was the selection of ‘CAF Legends’.

Frenchman Bruno Metsu, the former Senegal coach who took the country to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, and Brazilian Jose Faria, who managed Morocco to the knockout ’round of 16′ at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico – the first for an African team – were its recipients.

Both men, who sadly passed away last year – 59 year-old Metsu from cancer and Faria, at 80, from natural causes – are not undeserving of the posthumous awards.

However, it certainly leaves a rather sour taste in the mouth that not a single ex-player was honoured.

The joy players bring to fans on the terraces, as well as those watching matches on television, or listening to commentary on radio, is at the centre of the game.

It is the exploits and outstanding skill of active and retired players, not the coaches, and certainly not the so-called big men, in football’s corridors of power, which produces the primary material that is the stuff of lasting legend in our sport.

This seems quite clear to me and, I assume, to any enlightened student of the game. But this clearly needs to be understood by CAF’s mandarins.

That the first two (and only) inductees into CAF’s Hall of Fame, launched during last year’s congress in Morocco, also failed to include a single ex-player, indicates that a realignment of their thought process – which is putting it very diplomatically – is desperately needed amongst those responsible for managing the continent’s honours system.

Here’s my final poser from last Thursday’s ceremony: How can Cote D’Ivoire’s Didier Drogba be judged (controversially, in my opinion) to be amongst the three finalists for the top award (Nigeria’s John Mikel Obi, who placed second, was the other) but fail, by CAF’s very own awards, to make the Africa XI?

Truth, they say, is often stranger than fiction.

And lest I forget. If you go to CAF’s website (cafonline.com), one cannot obtain a complete list of nominees or winners for this year’s awards.

If this isn’t a loud statement about the inefficiency – if not incompetence – of those charged with the important responsibility of promoting the activities of the Confederation I don’t know what is.

But that’s by the bye…

With the 16-team Championship of African Nations (CHAN) in full throttle in South Africa since Saturday, which will end on February 1, very few people at CAF HQ will be reflecting on what took place in Nigeria.

But CAF needs to come up with concrete measures to ensure that only the deserving receive its honours, thereby securing their overall prestige and credibility and consequently improving the reputation of the African game.

This would be a welcome act of enlightened self-interest.

Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, as well as the Associate Editor of NewAfrican magazine, is one of the world’s leading journalists on African football. His regular commentary on the state of the African game can also be read at footballisafrica.com. Contact him at moc.l1634530820labto1634530820ofdlr1634530820owedi1634530820sni@a1634530820nawui1634530820yabo.1634530820usaso1634530820

Osasu is also a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.