The just ended football awards called Ballon d’Or which honours the male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous years came with concerns from major opinion leaders in sports. Key among them was Samuel Eto’o who was a co-host for the recent award and Lionel Messi.
Eto’o registered his displeasure in the results as the voting pattern shows that, out of 49 African countries that took part in the Ballon d’Or winner elections, 31% (15 countries) did not even include Mane in the top three. Only 12 countries or 24% ranked Mane as the best with the rest placing him second and third. Sadio Mane was equally a deserving player in the category after putting up a great performance during the year under review.
According to Eto’o, “If Sadio Mane won it and was on the podium, no one was going to complain because he deserves it and has been doing well and he had the best season.”
Commenting on the evolving lack of support among Africans, Eto’o stated that, “African people have problems with other African people. We, as Africans, are letting ourselves down. We need to unite if we are serious about ending the dominance of the Europeans and the South Americans in the race to be crowned the best players in the world.”
According to him, Messi (Lionel) won because all the South Americans voted for him. He equally noted that the Europeans also voted for Virgil Van Dijk making him the first runner-up but Africans failed to vote for Mane even for 2nd place choice.
Surprisingly, Barcelona’s talisman Lionel Messi, who was voted the winner of the recent award made a clear confession that, Sadio Mane was his top pick to win The Best FIFA Men’s Player award earlier this year and he actually voted for Mane.
According to Messi, “It’s a shame to see Mane finish in fourth place. But I think there have been a lot of great players this year. That’s why it was difficult to choose a particular player. But I chose Sadio Mane because he’s a player that I like”.
Justifying his decision, Messi went on to state that, “Mane achieved a great year that was exceptional for the entire Liverpool team. That’s why I chose him. I repeat, there were a lot of very great players this year, so the choice was difficult.”
Apart from Eto’o and Messi, Crystal Palace midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate also added a strong assertion that, Sadio Mane was overlooked for the Ballon d’Or because he is African. He added that “For me, this Ballon D’or is for Sadio Mane, there is no doubt about that. If Sadio was a Brazilian or a European there would not have been no debate.”
Even if there is a material truth in Kouyate’s assertion, the role of the African voters in Mane’s loss cannot be overlooked. This evolving attitude of Africans failing to support their fellow Africans must stop. We need to come together and rally behind deserving sons and daughters of the continent not only in sports but in every other aspect of competition.