Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE blundering Confederation of African Football, who ROBBED the Mighty Warriors of their deserved prize as the 2015 Team of the Year, have been left with egg on their faces after being exposed by the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards held in Zurich, Switzerland, on Monday night.
The achievements of the Mighty Warriors, who defied the odds to make history by qualifying for their maiden dance at the Olympic Games, beating heavyweights Cameroon in the final shootout for a place in the Brazil sunshine in August this year, were ignored by CAF at the organisation’s awards ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria, recently.
Instead, CAF gave the 2015 African Women Football Team of the Year award to the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon, the very team that the Mighty Warriors beat in the final battle for a place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Cameroon were fêted for having been the only African team that made it out of the group stages of the 2015 FIFA Women World Cup finals in Canada, where they lost in their first knockout game, while also coming second at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville.
However, many feel that the grand achievements of the Mighty Warriors, given that they knocked out the continental heavyweights from Cameroon, and the challenges they faced during a turbulent journey that saw them being expelled from the race at one stage, after failing to travel to Cote d’Ivoire, and then being reinstated by FIFA, were on a bigger scale than the Indomitable Lioness.
And, the fact that the Mighty Warriors won the head-to-head battle against the Cameroonians, in the shootout for a place in Rio de Janeiro, should have given them the edge ahead of their rivals in the race to land the gong as the 2015 African Women Football Team of the Year.
But CAF, who have a history of blundering and always appear to favour countries in Western and Northern Africa, decided to honour Cameroon with the Mighty Warriors left to just celebrate being short-listed for the award.
While the decision to snub the Mighty Warriors did not provoke fury at ZIFA, this newspaper led the way in crying foul and not only blasting CAF’s bias, but also questioning whether the Indomitable Lioness had only been honoured just to stroke the ego of CAF president, Issa Hayatou, who is also the acting FIFA president.
Hayatou is from Cameroon.
“Admittedly, our Golden Girls did not qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women World Cup finals in Canada, something that the Indomitable Lioness of Cameroon did, and they did not make it to the African Games, where the West Africans came out with a silver medal,” the Sharuko on Saturday blog argued last week.
“But the Mighty Warriors qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games, beating the Indomitable Lioness in the final shootout for a place in Rio de Janeiro and — in the process — writing probably the finest success story in women football in the world last year.
“For good measure, we eliminated the same Cameroon national team that they hailed as the finest side in Africa last year, leading for long periods in Yaounde before they staged a comeback to beat us 2-1 and, then, of course, beating them at Rufaro to get the ticket for a dance in the Rio sunshine.
“Given what our girls went through, just to get to Rio, being neglected by an Association that didn’t care about them and concentrated on the raging battles that were devouring their leadership, being — at one stage — expelled from the qualifiers because they had failed to travel to Cote d’Ivoire before FIFA reinstated us, arriving in Yaounde just hours before their showdown against Cameroon, surely, they deserved to be honoured for their achievements.
“For them to beat the only African team that made it to the Round of 16, at the World Cup, despite all the chaos that stalked their preparations, or rather lack of them, for them to beat the team that was powered by two of the best players on the continent last year, including the one who was crowned the best of the lot, was a grand achievement that should have been rewarded by the CAF leadership.
“Of course, we were not, and that is what hurts and we are left to wonder if Cameroon were honoured on Thursday night simply because the leader of CAF, who is also the temporary leader of FIFA, is also from that country.
“We are left to wonder whether this was all just a belated Christmas gift to the dear leader of African football, who also today occupies a temporary role as leader of world football, and honouring the Mighty Warriors ahead of the Indomitable Lioness would have been considered an insult to our big man.
“After all, this was the same organisation that robbed Yaya Toure of the 2015 African Footballer of the Year because, in their madness, they felt that Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang did more than the Ivorian, the man who led his country to Nations Cup glory last year.”
Aubemayang’s country, Gabon, was eliminated in the first round at the 2015 Nations Cup finals, a tournament won by an Ivorian side powered by Yaya Toure, while his German club side, Borussia Dortmund, were — for long periods — in the bottom half of the table.
Toure reacted angrily to the snub, telling French radio station, RFI, that this was a disgrace.
“I’m very, very disappointed. It’s sad to see Africa react this way, that they don’t think African achievements are important,” Toure said.
“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 favour more what’s abroad than our own continent.
“That is pathetic. I’ll give an example. Messi won all the trophies, but it’s Cristiano Ronaldo who won the award (Ballon d’Or 2014). What would you say? It’s unfair.
“But even FIFA, with all its history of corruption, wouldn’t do (what CAF judges did). Yaya will take care of Yaya and let Africa take care of itself. As I’ve been told many times, you can’t take care of Africa too much because Africa will be the first to let you down.”
On Monday night, Yaya Toure was voted the 12th best player in the world in 2015 by national team coaches, captains and journalists.
No other African player made the top 20.
The Ivorian picked 0,89 percent of the vote and was considered by the voting panel to have had a better year than such stars like Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale, who cost a fortune when he moved to Real Madrid, and Kevin de Bruyne.
Only Lionel Messi, who won the 2015 Ballon d’Or award, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Eden Hazard, Andreas Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez were considered by the voting panel to have had a better year, in 2015, than Yaya Toure,
The man who was voted as the 2015 African Footballer of the Year, Aubemayang, failed to even make the top 20, in the vote for the best player in the world last year, while the man that he surprisingly beat for the continental award, was voted the 12th best player on the globe in 2015.
Crucially Aubemayang’s name did not feature in the top three among those who cast their votes for the best player in the world in 2015 while Yaya was voted the third best player, behind Ronaldo and Suarez, by Botswana captain Joel Mogorosi.
The Ivorian was also voted the third best player in the world by the DRC national team coach, Florent Ibenga, who felt that only Messi and Ronaldo were better while South African coach, Shakes Mashaba, also voted for Yaya as the third best player in the world behind Ronaldo and Arturo Vidal.