Africa’s national team coaches have cast their votes and elected—by the tiniest margins—Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and not Yaya Toure as 2015’s African Footballer of the Year.
The full details of the coaches’ voting patterns reveal just how split they were on deciding who should be named the continent’s finest.
Yaya picked up 136 votes to Aubameyang’s 143—both coming some distance ahead of Andre Ayew in third, who accumulated 112 votes, and miles beyond fourth-placed Yacine Brahimi on 49 points.
This was a vote between goals and gold, between the sheer volume and consistency of a hitman at the top of his game, and a legendary midfielder who achieved a career highlight—and there have been many of those—in 2015.
It’s ironic that the year in which Yaya and his fellow faded counterparts of the Cote d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation finally ended their Cup of Nations hoodoo, that the man himself relinquished his hold on the continent’s greatest individual honour.
After years of disappointment in the international arena—all of the first-round eliminations, the last-minute stumbles, the choking failures of finals and semi-finals—the Ivorians finally ended a 23-year wait to life the continental title.
Yaya, who played in every match, and lifted the title for his nation, appeared to have finally achieved his last career ambition.
While the 32-year-old couldn’t guide Manchester City to the Premier League title last season, he still managed an admirable 10 goals, and has scored five and contributed five assists so far this term.
It is only against his own high standards can Yaya truly come in for any criticism, even if, yes, he isn’t always as defensively disciplined as Manuel Pellegrini might like!
In this vote between goals and glory, between net-bursting regularity and continental-conquering, the cold, hard stats of Aubameyang’s year have won out.
And they’re numbers that make the heart beat just that little bit faster.
In 2015, the forward scored 41 goals in all competitions, of which 18 have come in just 17 Bundesliga matches so far this term—making him the division’s top scorer by the year’s end.
His unswerving consistency of the end of last season—it’s worth noting that he only scored five league goals in the first half of the 2014-15 campaign, compared to 11 after the break—have given way to a relentless dominance over defenders this term.
At the beginning of the year, Yaya became the first player to win four African Player of the Year awards in a row, but by October, Aubameyang had made headlines of his own—becoming the first Bundesliga player to score in each of the first eight games of the season.
When that record did come to an end, against Mainz, Aubameyang’s own contribution consisted of both assists in a 2-0 victory. Even without his scoring boots, the 26-year-old has an awful lot to offer.
The only caveat, of course, is that while Toure’s efforts in Equatorial Guinea were enough to claim the Cup of Nations, Aubameyang’s year ended without silverware, although, true to form, Auba did score in the German Cup defeat to Wolfsburg.
That ultimately didn’t dissuade the African coaches from voting for the former Saint-Etienne man, making him only the second non-West African to win the award in a decade, and the first player from Gabon to win the continent’s title.
On a broader note, there was an end-of-an-era kind of sentiment about the Caf awards ceremony in Abuja.
Beyond ending Toure’s hegemony of the award, Aubameyang may well have brought the curtain down on the cabal of truly world-class African players that established themselves as continental greats over the last decade and a half.
Between them, Yaya, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Michael Essien—all of whom remain in football in some capacity—have 10 Caf POTY awards, eight second-placed finishes and nine third-placed finishes stretching back over the last 15 years—but it’s hard to see any of them truly challenge for the award again.
Aubameyang’s victory looks to have just heralded in a new era of African elite.
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