Oshoala's record win scant consolation for Nigeria at CAF awards
Asisat Oshoala was named CAF African Woman Player of the Year for the fourth time, equalling a record held by compatriot Perpetua Nkwocha, in what was Nigeria's sole win at the 2019 CAF African Player of the Year awards on Tuesday night in Egypt.
Senegal and Liverpool star Sadio Mane claimed the men's honours in a category where no Nigerian made it to the final three, and rightfully so. No Super Eagle could claim to be above Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez this term.
Barcelona Femeni striker Oshoala's win (she was not present at the awards) provided some salve for Nigerian wounds, but it was not without its own sliver of controversy however, as Cameroon's Ajara Nchout was widely expected to claim that particular award.
Overall, it was a disappointing night for Nigeria, the country losing out in every other category.
Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze were up against Morocco's Achraf Hakimi for the Young Player of the Year Award, but the Dortmund man bagged the prize.
Both Osimhen and Chukwueze had very strong cases to win the Young Player award ahead of Hakimi. Teenager Chukwueze broke into a strong Villareal side, to become a regular starter and did the same at international level for Nigeria, where he played in all but one game at the Africa Cup of Nations.
He has continued to be a regular post-Afcon starter for Nigeria, scoring twice for the Super Eagles. Osimhen transferred to Lille OSC last summer after scoring 12 goals from 25 league appearances in Belgium, and continued his hot streak in France, opening with a brace on his debut and going on to notch 10 goals from 18 league appearances so far.
That is beside his flaming form for the Super Eagles where he slotted in seamlessly for the retired Odion Ighalo as Nigeria's lead marksman, hitting four goals in four appearances for Nigeria.
All these numbers not only compare favorably with, but more than top Hakimi's with both Morocco and Borussia Dortmund.
Former Super Falcons coach Thomas Dennerby was up against South Africa's Desiree Ellis and Cameroon's Alain Djeumfa. He was beaten to it by the South African, who led Banyana Banyana to their maiden World Cup appearance.
The team he led were also up for the Women's National Team of the year award with South Africa and Cameroon, and lost to the Indomitable Lionnesses.
Dennerby's loss of the Women's coach of the Year was even more perplexing. In a World Cup year, he guided the Super Falcons to their first knockout phase progress since 1999, the same competition where Ellis' side were eliminated in the group phase without a single point.
If that was puzzling, Cameroon winning the Women's National Team of the Year ahead of the Super Falcons was just shy of scandalous.
Both teams made it to the knockout phase of the World Cup, but Cameroon's controversial behaviour in the round of 16 game against England should probably have been enough to knock them out of contention for the award, let alone win it.
For the FIFPro/CAF XI, not a single Nigerian player was featured, and the Super Eagles -- despite winning bronze at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations -- did not even make it to the top three for Men's National Team of the Year.
While Nigerian players have not been exactly pulled up trees, at least two - even three - could have made a strong case for inclusion.
Wilfred Ndidi has been outstanding for both Leicester City and Nigeria, but saw PSG's Idrissa Gana Gueye picked ahead of him.
Upfront, Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was picked ahead of Odion Ighalo, who was not only top scorer with seven goals in Afcon qualifying (Aubameyang scored one), but also emerged top scorer with four goals at the Nations Cup proper (Aubameyang's Gabon did not even qualify).
There is even a case to be made for William Troost-Ekong over Joel Matip, who turned his back on Cameroon, but was still picked in a CAF XI.
It's easy, if you're Nigerian, to think this lack of recognition is deliberate. But the FIFPro/CAF XI, for instance, was voted for by players across the continent, which is enough to rule out any conspiracy theory. "Debate is inevitable and all views are respected," Andrew Orsatti, FIFPro's Communications Director tells ESPN.
"I can only say that we asked as many national team players in Africa as possible to vote. Over 700 did so, from 35 nations, and this is the result."
Still. The last time a Nigerian player was in the top three of the Men's Player of the Year award was Vincent Enyeama in 2014, and the last time a Nigerian actually won the gong was Nwankwo Kanu in 1999. That is 21 years this year.
Gernot Rohr has built, and continues to build, a young team with not so latent potential for greatness. Osimhen, Chukwueze, and Ndidi are all potential future winners, along with a few others.
This awards near-shutout should serve as motivation for them and the others to annex that top prize in the next three to five years. That is the only way to address this perceived "injustice".