By Basil K Mbuye
International football awards organised by international organizations seem to have been an affair between Europeans and South Americans, as Africans continue to play second fiddle.
It has been a situation where many are pointing accusing fingers at different directions for the reason why African footballers cannot shine at the award in recent times.
The only time an African has won the award was on December 24, 1995, when George Weah came first ahead of Jürgen Klinsmann and Jari Litmanen. He also won the FIFA World Player of the Year that same year.
Since then, the Ballon d’Or has been a touristic side for African players who go there to clap for Europeans or South Americans who climb the podium year-in and year-out.
Despite the superb performances put forward by African football legends like Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, among others, Africans failed to climb the podium.
Many football fans have blamed this on racism as they think it is the Western World hatred for Africans that has seen them fail to shine at the awards.
From 1956 to present, except of 1995, no African player has been in the top three in the award. The closest an African player has come is to be voted fourth. Also, since the award started in 1956, they have been 40 different winners from Europe, five from South America and just one from Africa.
Regrettably, Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent in the world consisting of 54 full sovereign countries. Meanwhile, Europe is the second smallest continent, but the third most populous and has 45 countries.
On the other hand, South America is the fourth largest continent and fifth most populous with a total of 12 countries. Should Africa decide to support their own as is the case mostly with Europe and South America, the jinx of an African player winning the award again might be broken, considering their number.
However, the recent 2019 Ballon d’Or awards has shown that Africans are the problem as to why African players keep playing the role of hand clappers at intercontinental awards. A journalist in each country was given the responsibility of choosing, in order, their pick for best player in 2019. As usual, there were some interesting selections. A total of 176 leading journalist or broadcasters from each of the 176 voting nations took part.
In Africa, Messi had 18 votes, 14 votes for Van Dijk; Sadio Mané got 12 votes while Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Salah had 2 votes each, with Alisson voted just once. Cameroon voted for Virgil Van Dijk as first choice, while Salah and Mane came in as second and third choices, respectively. In South America, the countries showed their solidarity as close to 85 percent voted Messi as their first choice.
All in all, on how different continents voted, Van Dijk emerged on top across Europe and Asia, with Messi dominating in Africa, North America, South America and Oceania. Pivotally for Van Dijk, though, the African nations voted his Liverpool teammate, Sadio Mane, in second place behind Messi, putting the forward 16 votes ahead of the Dutch centre-back and costing him the Ballon d’Or.
The final verdict saw the top five made up of Lionel Messi = 686, Virgil van Dijk = 679, Cristiano Ronaldo =476, Sadio Mane = 347 and Mohamed Salah = 178.