Does Toure deserve ‘African Footballer of the Year’ trophy?
By Frederick Mordi
On January 8, 2015, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the highest football governing body on the continent, unveiled the African Footballer of the Year 2014, at a very elaborate ceremony held in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
The three finalists for the award were: Ivorian player and Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure; Nigeria’s goalkeeper and captain, Vincent Enyeama, who also plies his professional trade with Lille OSC of France; and Gabonese born Borussia Dortmund striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The atmosphere at the venue of the event was quite electrifying that cool evening. One would be forgiven in thinking it was a musical performance as some Nigerian top artistes entertained the guests. Globacom Limited (Glo), one of the leading mobile telecom operators in the country, sponsored the Glo-CAF Awards, which is regarded as the ‘Oscars of African Football.’
Many Nigerian football lovers were confident that Enyeama, 32, the second most capped player in the country, who made a debut for the national team in 2002, would win the trophy, on account of his excellent performance last year. He captained the team to victory in the 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations and took Nigeria to the second round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Brazil. He also had a spectacular goalkeeping record at his French club where he played 1,062 minutes without conceding a goal, during the 2013-14 Ligue 1 season.
Similarly, Aubameyang, 25, the first Gabonese footballer to play in the German Bundesliga, had an outstanding outing at his club last year. The son of a former Gabonese international footballer, Pierre Aubameyang, and Spanish mother, scored his country’s first Olympic goal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. He was also voted Best African Player in Lique 1 in 2012-2013 season. All these sterling qualities must have won the hearts of the selection committee.
However, it was Toure, 31, who eventually clinched the trophy, making history as the first African player to win the award for the fourth consecutive time, having won in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Cameroonian legend and Everton striker Samuel Eto’o is the only other player that has won the award four times, although not in successive years. Had Enyeama emerged the winner, he would have joined the likes of Thomas Nkono of Cameroon and Badou Zaki, a Moroccan, who are the only goalkeepers that have so far won the trophy.
But Toure’s win seems to be well deserved, as the gangling midfielder, who stands 6ft 3in in his socks, was nominated for the award for the key role he played in winning the Premier League and League Cup for Man City. He netted scored 20 goals in City’s title-winning campaign and has nine goals in 26 appearances for his club so far this season.
He also helped his country, Ivory Coast, to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, scheduled to take place in Equatorial Guinea from January 17, 2015 to February 8, 2015. He has two silver medals to show for his previous efforts at the Nations Cup. Toure captained Ivory Coast, currently ranked third best team in Africa and 28 in the world, in two games, at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, where the West African country narrowly missed out on a place in the second round. Toure made the initial FIFA shortlist for the 2014 Ballon D’Or prize in October, before the number was whittled down to three: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer.
Toure, who has played for several top clubs in the world including Olympiacos in Greece, Beveren in Belgium, Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine, AS Monaco in France, Barcelona in Spain, and currently Man City in England, started his playing career at Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas, where he made his debut at the age of 18. Work permit palaver prevented him from playing for Arsenal. He ended City’s 35-year wait for a trophy with a 1-0 win over Stoke City in 2011, wining the hearts of his fans.
Football runs in the family as his older brother and Ivorian international, Kolo Touré, who now plays for Liverpool, once played with him in Man City. Toure began his football career as a defender, before he moved to the midfield. Considered one of the best midfielders in the world today, he is nicknamed the ‘human train’ due to his speed and stamina.
There is no controverting the fact that Toure, who wears number 42 shirt, a reverse of 24, which he sported while at Barcelona, is a talented footballer. His win is therefore well deserved and he will continue to rule the midfield for some time.