Africans left out in the cold

Touré says it is me­dia’s fault that the con­ti­nent’s play­ers failed to get Fifa nod

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

When foot­ball’s con­trol­ling body Fifa and French mag­a­zine France Foot­ball re­leased the names of the play­ers who had made the short list for the world foot­baller of the year and the Bal­lon d’Or awards, re­spec­tively, African play­ers were con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence.

Al­though the Bal­lon d’Or list com­prised 30 names and the Fifa list 23, only two of them were Africans: Riyad Mahrez and Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang, with the Al­ge­rian star mak­ing both lists, while Aubameyang was deemed good enough to be in­cluded on the Bal­lon d’Or short list.

That in­di­vid­ual awards are gen­er­ally slanted in favour of at­tack­ing play­ers who score goals is a gen­er­ally ac­cepted fact, and there has been crit­i­cism that play­ers from big clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona have a bonus. But why Africans strug­gle to make a short list of 23 or 30 play­ers is be­yond com­pre­hen­sion.

As an ex­am­ple, look at take Dim­itri Payet, the French in­ter­na­tional who plays for West Ham. His statis­tics read: played 30 Premier League games and scored nine goals; played five FA Cup games and scored three goals. West Ham fin­ished 12th.

Com­pare those with Aubameyang’s statis­tics: played 31 Bun­desliga games and scored 25 goals; played 12 Europa League matches and scored 12 goals; and played four Ger­man Cup games in which he scored three goals.

Dort­mund fin­ished run­ners-up in both the league and the cup to Bay­ern Mu­nich, and made it to the quar­ter­fi­nals of the Europa League.

Even though statis­tics – and not only goals, which would be un­fair as Payet is a play­maker and most of his goals were spec­tac­u­lar – favour the Gabonese in­ter­na­tional, he did not make the Fifa list.

And Aubameyang is not the only African star who can feel hard done by, hav­ing been left out in the cold. No place for Sli­mani and Salah Egyp­tian striker Mo­hamed Salah had a stand­out sea­son for Roma in the Serie A, con­tribut­ing 15 goals in 35 games as Roma qual­i­fied for the Cham­pi­ons League. Yet Salah, a skil­ful and pacey winger who has put in ster­ling ap­pear­ances for the Pharaohs, is not deemed good enough for ei­ther list. Even if Payet was in­cluded af­ter an im­pres­sive Euro 2016 with France.

Salah was equally im­pres­sive with Egypt, who not only knocked out Nige­ria from the Africa Cup of Na­tions, but are well po­si­tioned to make their first World Cup ap­pear­ance since 1990.

An­other player who should have found his name on the short lists is Leicester City’s Is­lam Sli­mani, who did so well for Sport­ing Lis­bon that the Premier League cham­pi­ons put in a £29 mil­lion (R511 mil­lion) of­fer for the Al­ge­rian marks­man, who scored 33 goals for the Por­tuguese club last sea­son.

Yaya Touré, who made the short list last year (when there was just one award held jointly by Fifa and France Foot­ball) said at the time that the rea­son Africans strug­gled to get on to the list was that they failed to get enough me­dia at­ten­tion dur­ing the sea­son.

“To be hon­est, I think that some Africans de­serve more light [to be shed on them] and, why not, to fea­ture in this list. I know it’s hard to find suc­ces­sors to Di­dier Drogba and Sa­muel Eto’o, who set the bar very, very high. But we should def­i­nitely pay more at­ten­tion to Africans in these cir­cum­stances.”

Hav­ing failed to make ei­ther the world player or the Bal­lon d’Or short list this year, the side­lined Manch­ester City player can at least look for­ward to the BBC African foot­baller of the year award, where African play­ers are among them­selves.

How­ever, that list in it­self is not with­out con­tro­versy, as Touré’s in­clu­sion – along­side the other fi­nal­ists Aubameyang, An­dré Ayew, Mahrez and Sa­dio Mané – has been ques­tioned. Sli­mani and Salah should have been on the list be­fore the Ivo­rian in­ter­na­tional, sev­eral African news­pa­pers have writ­ten.

But then, pre­sum­ably as Fifa and France Foot­ball have re­alised (and Ricky Nel­son sang about): You can’t al­ways please ev­ery­body, so you’ve got to please your­self.

Some con­so­la­tion for South Africans, though, would be that Bafana Bafana mid­fielder Hlom­pho Kekana, who plays for Mamelodi Sun­downs, has been nom­i­nated for the Fifa Puskas award for his goal against Cameroon.

He is in a list of 10 with the likes of Barcelona duo Ney­mar and Lionel Messi for the best goal scored be­tween Septem­ber 30 last year and Septem­ber 30 this year.

PHOTO: VISIONHAUS#GP / COR­BIS / GETTY IM­AGES

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