It has been almost two decades since a Nigerian player was honoured top place, with the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Player of the Year Award.
The last Nigerian to win this award is the veteran superstar, Nwankwo Kanu, who won the CAF best player award in 1999. Alongside Kanu, the late Rashidi Yekini, Victor Ikpeba, and Emmanuel Amuneke are the only other Nigerians who have won the award in history. Today, the country can hardly lay claim to having the best crop of players on the continent.
Speaking after the 2018 Aiteo-CAF awards in Dakar, Senegal, where Nigeria was able to claim just one award at the gala -the Women’s National Team of the Year award -the 1994 CAF Player of the Year, Amuneke, decried the country’s decade-long lag in excellence at the continental event, demanding both players and the Nigeria Football Federation, to stand up to the challenge and work towards effecting a positive change.
The former Barcelona winger, who coached the Golden Eaglets to a fifth title win at the U-17 World Cup in 2015, said players must focus on their growth if they want to be recognized in Africa.
“Football is always changing, it’s dynamic. We the older generation can no longer return to the pitch to reposition our football. The young players should know that hard work is the only way forward. But are we doing the right thing to move our football forward? I realize that we dwell so much on glamour in Nigeria but forget to do what would bring glamour to our football.” — Emmanuel Amuneke.
The old warhorse was honored in Dakar, alongside past winners of the award, including Liberia’s President, George Weah; Kanu Nwankwo, Victor Ikpeba, Patrick Mboma, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’O, Federic Kanoute and the late Rashidi Yekini, represented by his daughter.
Featured image source: footballlive.ng