It would have been a night to remember for Nigerians. In fact, the most populous country in black Africa almost made it a clean sweep on the night but for the failure of some of her nominees to get the prizes, particularly John Mikel Obi who lost out in the race for Africa’s best player of the year award.
Prior to the commencement of the 2013 GLO CAF Awards Gala Night held at the Convention Centre of the Eko Hotel, Lagos last Thursday, the expectations of Nigerians were very high.
The country had nominees in virtually all the categories and based on their performance individually and as a team, many were already anticipating a clean sweep.
It almost turned out so, as Nigeria started the night on a glorious note, picking the first two awards of the night, with the Super Eagles and Golden Eaglets named the continent’s National Team of the Year and Youth National Team of the Year respectively.
Super Eagles Coach Stephen Keshi expectedly beat two others including his compatriot Manu Garba to the Coach of the Year award while Golden Eaglets attacking midfielder and 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup best player Kelechi Iheanacho took home the Most Promising Talent award.
Added to the awards scooped by Nigeria was the Fair Play Award, which the ever vibrant Nigerian Supporters Club won without any contest.
The story, however, changed in the race for the Best Africa-based Footballer award in which Nations Cup hero Sunday Mba was beaten by veteran Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika of Al Ahly who was adjudged to be the best.
When it was time for the ultimate award, that is the African Footballer of the Year award, to be announced, expectant Nigerians adjusted their seats and waited in confidence, believing that Mikel had done well enough to beat the Ivorian duo of Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba to the prize.
With Drogba absent at the event, both Mikel and Yaya watched as the large screen showed the clips of what they did to earn their places in the final shortlist for the award.
After that, the co-MC, ex Super Eagles Captain Sunday Oliseh, who was already armed with the result of the votes cast to determine the eventual winner, heightened the tension in the hall by asking- ‘’Who can tell me the winner?’’
The response was overwhelming in favour of the Chelsea midfielder as shouts of ‘’Mikel, Mikel’’rend the air.
This was not to be as Oliseh announced- ‘’The winner is Yaya Toure’’.
The expectant Nigerians could not but express their shock; their jaws also dropped.
Although they quickly shrugged off the shock to honour the Ivorian by clapping and hailing him, it was glaring that the fun the Nigerians were having before then had been halted midway.
Many of them who spoke after the event expressed their disappointment over another fruitless wait for the emergence of a Nigerian as Africa’s best footballer since the glorious days of Kanu Nwankwo.