Why is there a bias against African soccer?

By Minenhle Mkhize Time of article published Sep 9, 2019

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DURBAN –  For a continent whose players have been crucial members of the most successful clubs in European football, Africa’s lack of success when it comes to individual awards is surprising.

Can you believe that there has only ever been one African winner of the Fifa World Footballer of the Year award?

Strange right? I mean, think of any top club in the world and you will find that each of them has an African as a key member of the team.

But none of those have ever walked away with the coveted accolade of being the best in the world. That of course is excluding George Weah, a winner back in 1995.

We are going to have to wait yet another year to have anyone emulate the great Liberian following the revelation of the latest finalists for the title commonly known as the Ballon d’Or.

Two Europeans (Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil Van Dijk) and one South American (Lionel Messi) have made the final list for the World Footballer of the Year nominees.

Unsurprisingly the mercurial Ronaldo and the majestic Messi are on the list as usual. The duo have dominated the award for the past decade having been consistent performers season-after-season for both club and country.

But why, oh why, is it that Africa has no representation once again? Most would no doubt have expected Liverpool’s duo of Egyptian striker Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane of Senegal to be in with a shot. But they didn’t make the list despite being on top of their games for the past 12 months.

Liberia's current President George Weah is the only African player to be named World Footballer of the Year. Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

I don’t know how Mane was not shortlisted in the top three. He was a joint top goalscorer in the English Premier League last season. The Senegalese helped his country to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt where he was a colossal figure for the Lions of Teranga. He was also pivotal as Liverpool FC were crowned the Uefa Champions League champions. Mane recently added the Uefa Super Cup to his list of accomplishments. But no, all that was not worthy of a nomination.

Instead it is his teammate Van Dijk who might bring an end to the Messi and Ronaldo domination of the award.

Many African players have dazzled in the past and not won. Here the names of greats such as Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o spring to mind. The two were crowed African football kings on numerous occasions but their efforts, which delivered silverware for their clubs, were never good enough for them to be deemed the best in the world.

In 2012, Drogba propelled Chelsea to the pinnacle of European football when he played a key role in the Blues capturing the Champions League title. Despite his individual brilliance which led Chelsea to the greatness, the Ivory Coast legend didn’t even make the top three.

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Is it wrong to assume that you have to be a European or South American to be crowned the world’s best footballer? Mane has been consistent and he deserved to at least be shortlisted but he didn’t make it. Why? It is because he is an African? Yes, I think so. If it was Messi or Ronaldo who led Argentina or Portugal to the pinnacle of their continental showpiece, I have no doubt that they would be hot favourites to be crowned the best players in the world.

Come on football world, end this bias against our continent.


The Mercury

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