By Peter Ejiofor
The Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) says the non-inclusion of Nigeria’s players in the list of five shortlisted to vie for Glo-CAF 2016 African Player of the Year Award is in order.
SWAN made the assertion as more Nigerians reacted to the development in interviews the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday.
NAN reports that the African Football Confederation (CAF) released on Tuesday the names of five players to vie for the prestigious individual honour with no Nigerian on the list.
The shortlisted players, according to CAF, includes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon & Borrusia Dortmund), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Leicester City) and Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool).
Others are Mohamed Salah (Egypt & Roma) and Islam Slimani (Algeria & Leicester City).
For the African Player of the Year (Based in Africa), the nominees are Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns & Zimbabwe), Keegan Dolly (Mamelodi Sundowns & South Africa) and Rainford Kalaba (TP Mazembe & Zambia).
Others are Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns & South Africa) and Denis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns & Uganda).
CAF, said that the top five was decided by votes from the members of the CAF Media Committee, CAF Technical and Development Committee and half of the 20-member Panel of Experts (10 persons).
SWAN lending its voice to the debate, said that the exclusion of Nigerians from the award was not a biased judgment.
Speaking on behalf of the National President of SWAN, Mr Preye Jaja, a TV pundit for Rivers State Television, said the scorecards of Nigerian players in 2016 season did not merit a place in the top five.
“No Nigerian player is really worth the price, but in 2017, we should have Victor Moses or Kelechi Ihenacho in the top five.
“When we look at 2016 season and what Nigerian players have achieved, I’m not sure we should be there; we did not even qualify for the Nations Cup; so what justifies our inclusion.
“Qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations is a big factor and none of our players are outstanding. Voting should not be done with emotional attachment, it must be fair.
“We cannot compare Odion Ighalo’s contributions to Watford FC to Ryad Mahrez contributions to Leicester City. I think it is a good judgment and 2017 will be good for Nigeria,’’ he said.
Another TV pundit, Afolabi Oni, said that there was nothing like gang-up against Nigerian players, adding that the voting pattern was clear enough to assess the players’ performances.
“I don’t think there is any big deal in the list, when we talk about the likes of Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa, they did not enjoy the club playing time like those nominated.
“Players such as Pierek Aubamiyang and Ryad Mahrez did well for their country and clubs.
“Musa did well in CSKA Moscow before moving to Leicester City but eventually found himself on the bench and Iheanacho is just an upcoming player.
“I think the list is about separating the boys from the men. Everybody picked on the final list deserve his place in that spot,’’ he said.
For Rotimi Arabi, a sports journalist, the exclusion of Nigerian players is not surprising as it was expected judging from the players’ performances in the year under review.
“For me, I saw it coming because our players need to up their games, particularly upcoming players like Iheanacho.
“Some people in some quarters have a wrong impression of the voting pattern by saying that it is partial; the voting has always been open as ever.
“Maybe because we are hosting, but this is not enough reason to be partial during the voting,’’ he said.
“The coaches are the ones responsible for the voting,’’ he said, adding that Nigeria’s brightest star, Mikel Obi, only performed well during Olympics but he is not playing for his club Chelsea.
“Performances at national level are not enough; playing regularly at club level is also a yardstick of accessing the players.
“Mfom Udo, who is the highest goal scorer in the African Champions League cannot help his team beyond the group phase, so he is out of contention too.’’
On the contrary, Foster Chime, the Media Officer, Rangers International FC of Enugu, champions of 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), said that a Nigerian should have made the list.
“The idea that no Nigerian player is worth a place in the last five is not tenable; they are also technically good as their African brothers.
“We have players that have justified their inclusion in the list. The likes of Mikel Obi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Moses should have been on the list.
“I don’t know their criteria but that is how I felt it should be, even for the fact that we have been hosting the events for quite a while,’’ he said.