Friday, January 16, 2009

Africa's greatest footballer of 2008: How is George Weah not on this list?

Colin and I are obviously Arsenal and Liverpool supporters, respectively, but we fancy ourselves worldly men – at times at least. That's why I want to stop for a second and run down the shortlist for 2008 African Footballer of the Year. The three finalists were just announced, but Daily Guide Ghana has, by far, the best headline summarizing the whole shebang out of any of the items I quickly scanned before posting this.

Let's take a quick look at the finalists for a minute and pretend I'm not going to pick Michael Essien without considering the other two at all:

• Emmanuel Adebayor, Togo: My overriding impression of Adebayor comes from watching Colin and his Arsenal mates down at the bar kvetch and moan about how Adebayor is not playing like he could be. Honestly, from what I've seen of him over the last couple years, the boy can play. He's pretty good but misses a few too many from close in. Yet, the reaction his shortcomings generate among the Arsenal crew down at the bar is just hilarious. You'd think they were succumbing to Rafa's good luck kidney stones or something. It's quite the sight. A lot of reports peg Adebayor as the favorite for the award. I say anybody that causes Colin such distress on a somewhat regular basis cannot possibly named Africa's best.

• Mohamed Aboutrika, Egypt: The name strikes a chord, but unlike God and Kenny Dalglish, I am not omnipotent. I can't be everywhere at once, so Aboutrika is beyond me. The press reports say he led Egypt to the African Cup of Nations trophy, as well as his club team to victory in the African Champions League. Hey, that's good enough for me. He's pretty good, but who are we kidding here? Close, but no cigar – at least in Jim's book.

• Michael Essien, Ghana: Here we go. I've been saying since shortly after Essien went to Chelsea and I had a chance to see him play that he's the best player in the side every single time he takes the pitch. And I held that opinion even when Drogba about a year, year and a half ago was at his absolute best. Essien is a stone killer, dogg. And the proof is in the "fall of Chelsea" we're supposedly seeing this season with him out of the lineup, trying to recover from long-term injury. Can a player who famously failed to mark Ronaldo effectively enough in the Champions League on a set piece, leading to a United goal, and who has been hurt for half the year still be named the 2008 African Footballer of the Year? If I had a vote, he'd win it in a walk. Come to think of it, why don't I have a vote? I've seen "When We Were Kings."

So there you have it. Michael Essien is your 2008 African Footballer of the Year. It's like the Daily Guide Ghana said in the link above: It's Essien and then two other guys.

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