WILL NIGERIAN PLAYERS RULE AFRICA AGAIN? By Tana Aiyejina

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Seventeen years after Nwankwo Kanu was crowned CAF African Player of the Year, no other Nigerian footballer has ruled Africa again. Football stakeholders say the long wait may not be over yet.
Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on Thursday crowned the new king of African football, when he ended the four-year reign of Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure at an elaborate ceremony held in Abuja.The Borussia Dortmund star scored 143 points ahead of Toure, who scored 136 points to win a first CAF African Player of the Year Award for 2015. Ghanaian Andre Ayew recorded 112 points to place third. But it was a case of different tales for Aubameyang and Nigerians. While the 26-year-old was all smiles on the podium as the continent’s best player, Nigerians had to endure another torrid year, watching helplessly as the top player’s award eluded a player from their country.
Indeed, the last time a Nigerian was named the African Player of the Year was in 1999, when Nwankwo Kanu won it for a second time. Super Eagles’ all-time highest goal scorer the late Rashidi Yekini was the first Nigerian to win the award in 1993. Emmanuel Amuneke grabbed it the following year before Kanu and Victor Ikpeba also came out tops in 1996 and 1997. It was an era that Nigerian players reigned supreme, winning the top prize five times between 1993 and 1999. But at the turn of the new millennium, the fortunes of Nigerian stars seemed to have dwindled, leaving no Nigerian footballer with the honour of being Africa’s best in the last 17 years.
Aside the Player of the Year award, the country’s players/teams also failed to win awards that they normally dominated. For instance the Super Falcons, who performed woefully at last year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada, were beaten by Cameroon, who reached the knockout stages of the event to win the Women’s Team of the Year award. The Indomitable Lionesses’ Gaell Enganamouit was also named the Women’s Player of the Year, ahead of Falcons’ Ngozi Ebere while the U-17 World Cup winning Golden Eaglets and their coach Emmanuel Amuneke lost the Team of the Year and Coach of the Year to Ivory Coast and Herve Renard respectively. No Nigerian was also in CAF’s XI. Only enterprising national U-23 team midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo (Most Promising Talent) and U-17 World Cup record goal scorer, Victor Osimhen (Youth Player of the Year) put smiles on the faces of football-crazy Nigerians at the event.
Close followers of the game in the country say they are disturbed with the negative trend in the last 17 years and fear that it might continue with the way the game is run in Nigeria.

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