Ever since 1992, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has been awarding the African footballer of the year to the most valuable African footballer each year whereas between 1974 and 1994, the African footballer of the year golden ball award was given by France football magazine in France.
In between the times, out of the hugely talented Ghanaian players, only three, namely Ibrahim Sunday, 1971, Abdul Razak 1978 and Abedi Ayew Pele, 1992,1993 and 1994 have won it.
The above undoubtedly were great heroes but understandably not the only Ghanaian talented players who should or could have won the prestigious CAF award.
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There has been some great players like Aggrey Fynn, CK Gyamfi, Jones Attuquayefio all of blessed memory, Rev Osei Kofi, Anas Seidu, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan to name but a few.
Our yen.com sports desk would want to take a look at Five Great Ghanaian Footballers Who Never Won the CAF Player Of the Year Award.
Michael Essien undoubtedly is a great Ghanaian player who saw it all but was unfortunate to have lost it when it mattered most; that is to clinch the award as the best African player anytime he was nominated.
At his prime with Chelsea, Essien was regarded as one of the best midfielders in world football. The versatile Ghanaian could play in so many positions that his coach at Chelsea could deploy him to any role on the pitch.
His strength as a midfielder and the tenacity in him did not only catch the eye of Mourinho to lure him to Chelsea from Lyon but also made fans in the French league name him, ‘le bison’ after the American buffalo whose strength could not be matched by any other animal.
Essien who was named the Ghanaian player of the year in 2008, also won four league titles and seven domestic cups in two different countries, while also being part of the Chelsea squad that won the Champions League in 2012.
Michael Essien of Ghana holds this record as having been nominated for five occasions and yet losing out to other players when it came to being voted for the award. The Chelsea legend was first nominated in 2005 where he bowed to the duo of Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba. In his second attempt the following year, he was unable to get the better of Eto’o and Drogba despite his outstanding performance for Ghana and Chelsea.
Many were those who thought 2007 provided him the best opportunity to win the coveted award due to his consistency in outstanding display in his career but he narrowly lost to Frederic Kanoute of Mali to the displeasure of many journalists who thought there was a conspiracy against Essien. He also lost out in the 2008 and 2009 editions after he had also been nominated for the Ballon D’or.
Stephen Appiah is another player whose greatness on the field of play should have won him the award as the best African player.
Regarded as Ghana’s most influential and respected captain, the Udinese, Parma, Brescia, Juventus and Fernabahce player whose outstanding days at both club and country won him much fame worldwide is regarded as another player who should have been crowned as Africa’s best. He won the Italian ‘scudetto’ with Juventus and had some memorable times on the field for the Black Stars.
He is one player whose career as a national team player spanned through the, U-17, U-20, Black Meteors and the Black Stars.
One moment one would always want to reminisce was a match with Italy where Appiah picked up the ball a good 30meters from the Italian goal post, slipped the ball through the legs of two players and unleashed a curling one to the discomfort of his Italian team colleagues at the Olympics.
The bossy player he was, Appiah partnered Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari in midfield and made a mockery of the famed Czech duo of Pavel Nedved and Tomas Rosicky.
It was also his delightful 2nd minute pass that set up Asamoah Gyan for Ghana’s first ever world cup goal. One would be fair to say there has not been a more dominant display by an individual player in a Ghana shirt at the world cup since then.
Appiah was a wonderful leader who knew that the best way to lead was to do so by example and to get the best out of his colleagues, he often did that.
His sublime talent as a player and the ferociousness in his foot which gained him the alias, ‘Tornado’ set him above most of his colleagues on the African continent which should have won him the prestigious African footballer of the year award.
SAMUEL OSEI KUFOUR
The former Ghana’s skipper of the Black Stars and Bayern Munich star is one Africa’s most stylish defenders ever churned out of the continent.
His calmness in his role as a defender made him a favourite of many coaches and fans alike. Many renowned sports journalists including Mark Gleeson of South Africa therefore tipped the Ghanaian defender to scale over his other two nominees, El Hadj Diouf of Senegal and Cameroun’s Samuel Eto’o Fils because of his immaculate performance in a year that saw him helped his German team to win the Bundesliga and the European Champions' League plus the Toyota Cup.
However, he missed out on the award to Diouff yet again to the hue and cry of many journalists who nearly staged a boycott as a protest for what they termed a calculated step to spite the Bayern player.
The central defender is best remembered for his time with Bayern Munich, where Osei Kufour made almost 250 appearances and won 17 major trophies during a 12-year stay. Amongst those trophies were six league titles, four cups and a Champions League, while he also featured in the unsuccessful 1999 Champions League final, where he is famously remembered for punching the ground in frustration after Manchester United had scored twice in stoppage time to win the trophy.
The three-time Ghanaian footballer, 2001 Ballon D’or nominee for 2001 and twice runner-up in the African Football of the Year awards, was included in the Confederation of African Football's top 30 African players of all time in spite of his missing out on the African award.
Anthony Yeboah is regarded by most football fanatics as an all round striker who could make his presence felt in any game he played.
At a point in time of his career, the bulldozing striker nicknamed ‘Yegoala’ out of a coinage of his name and the art of scoring which he knew best, was regarded as the best striker in world football. So it beats one’s imagination why he could not be named as Africa’s best in his prime.
English fans in particular will remember Tony Yeboah well for his two-year stint with Leeds United, which was marked with a Goal of the Season contenders that helped him to earn cult hero status at Elland Road.
Prior to that, he had made a mark as a good striker for FC Saarbrucken, SV Hamburg and ending at the top of the Bundesliga scoring charts in 1993 and 1994 with Eintracht Frankfurt. He was voted Leeds's Player of the Year in 1996 and one year later earned the accolade of Ghana's Player of the Year.
However, Yeboah finished in the top three in the African Footballer of the Year awards on two occasions where he narrowly missed out but was voted as high as ninth in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1993.
MOHAMMED AHMED POLO
Mohammed Ahmed Polo is best known for his mercurial style of playing for his mother club, Accra Hearts of Oak and the Black Stars which gave him the name, ‘the dribbling magician’.
His confidence on the ball and ability to manouvre his way through the defence of his opponents with ease made him claim he was "better than Lionel Messi".
There is no doubt that Mohammed Ahmed Polo was one of the most gifted and technically sound players in Ghana's history.
Polo is a member of the AFCON 1978 winning team and his huge talent earned him Ghanaian Player of the Year and is on record as the inaugural winner.
It was a period many felt Mohammed Polo was supposed to have been named the African Player of the year in 1979 for his outstanding output for Ghana.