Watch Live Matches

Why Mikel did not win African Footballer of the Year Award

Published on: 10 January 2014
John Obi Mikel

Last night in Lagos, Nigeria hosted the CAF awards for African footballers, coaches and teams that excelled in 2013.

It came as a shock to many Nigerians when Sunday Oliseh (former Super Eagles star) announced the winner of the most prestigious of the awards, which is the “best player of the year” (for 2013) and the winner was Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure, instead of Nigeria’s John Mikel Obi as expected by most Nigerian football fans.

In the build-up to the awards it was time for football politics to come to the fore once again. Yes, football politics.

Over the years, national and linguistic parochialism usually came to play in the minds of Africans in choosing which player should win the award, colouring sane judgment of quality and consistency of players’ performance during a calendar year.

Till date, many Nigerians have not come to terms with how one of the most skillful players – if not THE most skillful – to have ever come out of Africa, the mercurial Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, never did win the African Footballer of the Year award. Not a few blame a perceived Francophone conspiracy as the major reason Okocha was overlooked during the years when he was at the top of his game.

While it may be difficult to criticise the preference of Cameroun’s Samuel Eto’o to Okocha during those years of the former’s dominance of the CAF awards – not the least because my memory of the comparative performance of both men over those years seems to fail me now – I am sure Okocha’s name would remain eternally in the hearts of Africans who have surely not seen a player even close to his mesmeric like since he quit the round leather game.

The award for Africa’s best player of 2013 saw two individuals – one Anglophone and the other from a Francophone country – who had successful seasons in 2013 as frontrunners.

Millions of Nigerians were hoping that John Mikel Obi would be named Footballer of the Year based on his fine displays for club and country and his solid team credentials last year which include an Africa Cup of Nations title with Nigeria and a Europa Cup triumph with Chelsea.

While Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure, the other favourite, had a very solid and consistent 2013, his zero team honours last year represented a significant minus, at least in the minds of those for whom winning a trophy is everything.

Herein lies the confusion and controversy surrounding such awards. There is seemingly an equal placement of priority on a player’s individual performance and team honours in choosing who should be selected as best player.

Was the choice of the majority who voted for Toure the right one? I think it really was.

Let’s face it; awards for ‘best player’ should be dished out with emphasis placed more on who has consistently shown the best technical and tactical performance over the course of a year.

Yes, it is significant that a player has contributed to his teams’ overall success, but I think when we talk of “best player” we should be referring more to an individual who by his play alone has caught the eye the most, and not one who just, by the good play of his teams, won something with them.

We should be taking into consideration the one whose overall technical brilliance has mostly titillated millions of watchers and how consistently he has shown us that brilliance in a year.

I think it is for these reasons why many like me think Okocha deserved the CAF award in the past, and it is for these reasons I think Yaya Toure deserves it now.

Toure is simply at a higher level technically, and was a regular and more consistent performer for his club last year, while Mikel was really only a little more than a fringe player for Chelsea.


This article has 14 comment(s), give your comment
  • kwame says:
    January 11, 2014 07:22 am
    Mikel might not be the best footballer, but luck also plays an important role in our lives and also with football. So far, he is a winner with Chelsea, and Nigeria. Have been luckier than most footballers and richer than all of you haters. Life is about achievement and Mikel is an achiever and nobody can take that from him
  • eddei says:
    January 11, 2014 01:53 am
    What we are all forgetting is that these two players play totally different roles for their clubs and country. i would argue that they excelled at what they did last year. Mikel is used as a holding midfielder while Toure is used as an attacking midfielder. So there you have it. They are both winners in my book.
  • Japslash says:
    January 11, 2014 07:27 am
    All thesame mikel is a world class midfielder
  • chimereze says:
    January 11, 2014 09:01 am
    Those who underate MIKEL knows nothing compared to football, I remembered with nostalgia how Chelsea were underperforming during AVB when he was not fielding MIKEL, which boomeranged until the timely intervention of Dimateo who fielded MIKEL on regular basis seeing to the trophy of champions league, the same happened to Benitez when he came over and subsequently lost many matches until he started playing MIKEL regularly and Chelsea managed to get to 3rd position as well as winning Europa league, the same was happening to Mouriho until he started playing MIKEL recently.I remembered the day Chelsea played 9 man against 11 man of Manchester united during Dimatteo, MIKEL was a jet fighter holding United from 2nd half till 96 minutes with 2 man down.MIKEL has always outburst Yaya toure in the mid field and overall game whenever both of the them met in the game of football.Under 2013 review, MIKEL was outstanding than Yaya toure
  • JIMMY says:
    January 11, 2014 09:02 am
    whether CAF or U like it or not Mikel is the GOLDEN & LUCKY BOY of AFRICA..."a champions"...Hayatou is on his own...period!!!
  • JIMMY says:
    January 11, 2014 09:04 am
    whether CAF or U like it or not,Mikel is the GOLDEN & LUCKY BOY of AFRICA..."a champion"...Hayatou is on his own & will soon expire...period!!!
  • chimereze says:
    January 11, 2014 09:14 am
    MIKEL is midfield marshal that leopard describes as most professional player in Chelsea.He plays to instruction and has wonderful team spirit than most professionals, He was best mid fielder at confederation cup, ask xavi and iniesta, MIKEL was powerful distributor of passes at dangerous areas.
  • chimereze says:
    January 11, 2014 09:21 am
    Sorry, I mean lampard describes as most professional player in Chelsea
  • RAS says:
    January 10, 2014 04:30 pm
    it , ll be more than shock if he should, ve won it.
  • Ade says:
    January 10, 2014 03:54 pm
    Well said. No comparison between both players, Yaya is an integral part of his team while Mikel is a dispensable team player. Heck, London went into shock when Mikel scored his first goal last year! I don't even see how Mikel made the shortlist to be honest.
  • kassbak says:
    January 10, 2014 04:04 pm
    It is a surprise to only pretenders. How on earth should Mikel compete with Yaya Toure for an award???
  • kassbak says:
    January 10, 2014 04:06 pm
    To me the last three nominees should have been Toure (CIV), Pitroipa (BF) and Kwadwo Asamoah (Gh). And Toure wins...period.
  • Google Maps says:
    January 10, 2014 03:22 pm
  • spellBOUND says:
    January 10, 2014 01:52 pm
    "It came as a shock to many Nigerians ....." ARE U SERIOUS????? hahaha, as good as Mikel is, he is nowhere near the calibre of Yaya. please believe me, no one was shocked. yaya deserved it 1000%.