Mohammed Salah has just been crowned 2017 African player of the year. Aside Salah’s crowning as the best in Africa, another eventful proceeding which took place was the scrapping off of the African based footballer of the year award. It was indeed a very great decision by the current CAF president Ahmad Ahmad and his cohorts. I have always shared the opinion that the African based footballer of the year award was not necessary as we cannot have two best players in Africa unless of course, the African player of the year award has evolved to become an award only for foreign based African footballers. As a football enthusiast, I think that the powers that be need to also reconsider the place of the African Nations Championship shortened, CHAN.
When CAF came up with the decision to organize a tournament for local based players on 11th September, 2007 we all lauded the decision and received it with optimism and enthusiasm. According to Wikipedia, the tournament was created in order to strengthen national championships which have been weakened by a mass exodus of top players who leave their homelands to play for foreign teams. The idea was to boost the finances of these local players, reduce the exodus of local players to foreign lands and get these players more media coverage. As Ghanaians, we assumed that it will help our local players show the stuff they are made up to the world. We also assumed they would bring healthy competition to the Black Stars by competing with the foreign based players for starting berths.
However, when you take a critical look at the tournament, you will realize that it has not really had the impact that it was expected to have. Was it a wrong solution to the problems that African football on the whole faces? The fact is that our local leagues are not filled with players of decent quality. Gathering this same bunch of players with low quality to form a national side doesn’t really solve anything, does it?
One of the rationales for creating the CHAN tournament was to help curtail the mass exodus of local players to the foreign lands. Has CHAN done its bid to stop or even reduce the massive exodus of local Ghanaian players to the foreign lands? What has actually happened is that our national team has been divided into two categories. One fields local players and the other fields players plying their trade in foreign lands. This was definitely not the intention of CHAN but that is what is actually happening at the moment. CHAN has grown to become more of a compensation to our local players by telling them indirectly that they are not good enough to play for the national team and so they should settle for places in the “LOCAL BLACK STARS”. Since the inception of the CHAN tournament, how many players have gained entry into the Black Stars based on their performances? No matter how good the players perform during the tournament, they wouldn’t get the needed call up because CHAN parades players of low quality. We should have rather found methods of improving the quality of our leagues.
According to Wikipedia, during the 2014 CHAN tournament which was hosted in South Africa, the total attendance was 296, 440(an average attendance of 9, 264 per match).This implies that the tournaments are played in half filled stadiums further reiterating that there isn’t much interest in the tournament.
According to Africanews.com, in November 2016, CAF announced an increment in prize money for the African cup on nations from 1.5 million dollars to 4 million dollars. CHAN prize money was also increased from 750 000 dollars to 1.25 million dollars. Let us analyze this: According to Nana Frimpong of goal.com, Spain, champions of EURO 2012 received 33.75 million dollars(approximately 8.43 times CAF’s current price), Uruguay winners of the 2011 COPA America bagged home 7 million dollars whereas Mexico who won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2009 bagged home 17 million dollars. Despite the increments, there is still much left to be desired when we compare what other competitions pay out to their teams. When the AFCON is struggling to maintain its global appeal and rake in the necessary finances required to make it attractive, is it worth it that CHAN was introduced? The foreign leagues have reached the level they are now because of how much they invest into their football. We have to seek investors and sponsors who are willing to use their resources to help develop our local leagues. I think that the monies spent on CHAN would be used more judiciously if it is spent by CAF on grassroots football development. That is a better option than consuming scarce resources to compete in the CHAN tournament.
It was Stephen Keshi’s decision to use a squad highly populated with local players for the AFCON tournament in 2013 and his team ended up as champions. He didn’t need CHAN to make that decision. Can we think about a situation where the Europeans would organize a tournament for players that are based in their homeland? AFCON, which is the premier competition in African football is even losing its appeal, how much more CHAN? According to Mailonline.com, despite it being Africa’s premier tournament, the 2017 AFCON in Gabon’s spectatorship has been at best, sparse. There were barely thousand people in the stadium when Algeria played against Tunisia notwithstanding the fact that it was one of the top liners in African football. Generally, there were more empty seats than people in every game except during Gabon’s games. Considerable effort must be spent in planning and strategizing the AFCON tournaments so that it returns to the status it once upon a time reveled in.
We don’t have the resources to be staging both these tournaments every two years. The Europeans who are far ahead of us in terms of football even stage their EURO tournament every four years. If our local leagues are of good quality, the players should be able to compete with those playing overseas for starting berths. CHAN doesn’t have any appeal as the tournaments are played in half empty stadiums.
We have to be interested in finding ways to increase the quality of our local leagues and forget about this idea of CHAN. If this doesn’t happen then our local players will keep on moving to Vietnam, Egypt, Israel and South Africa at the slightest opportunity. After all, when they go there, they will earn some dollars instead of staying here and struggle even to take care of their families.
The CAF president on the 4th of January 2018 during a press briefing explained why the African based Footballer of the year was scrapped off. Ahmad Ahmad said “The best is always the best, we don’t have two best. The players based in Africa are also capable of winning the award for the best African Footballer so; there is no need to categorize them.”
Isn’t it not contradictory to say the least that we can have two best national teams in Africa? My guess is as good as yours.
By: Baiden Gideon/EonlineGhana.Com