The new African Player of the Year has an opportunity to create history with his national team in next month’s Afcon, if the Elephants overcome their hype
By Lolade Adewuyi
One would have to go back to 1994 for the last time a midfielder was named the African Player of the Year. Since Abedi Pele’s feat that year, the title seems to have become a the domain of the strikers.
That was until Yaya Toure snapped that run with his crowning as Africa’s best player in a ceremony held on Thursday night at the State House Banquet Hall in Accra, Ghana.
The Ivory Coast player has seen just reward for work done in a very impressive year when he has settled in to life in the English Premier League with Manchester City. It also underlined a magnificent run in the colours of the national team where the Elephants secured a 100 per cent record in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
Yaya’s victory has made him the second Ivorian to be named Africa’s best following on the heels of the enigmatic Didier Drogba, who has won it twice in recent years.
“I am very happy to win the award. I feel proud of this special day. I thank my family; wife and kids for their support. I am also grateful to my brother (Kolo Toure), my team-mates (club and national team) and the Ivorian Football Federation for their role in this feat,” Yaya was quoted on Cafonline.com upon receiving his accolade.
Since making the move to the blue half of Manchester in 2010, Yaya has raised his game from just a midfield enforcer to a match-winning box-to-box player who ensured that City won their first major title in 35 years.
Toure scored the lone goal in their victory against rivals Manchester United in the semi-final of the FA Cup before rising to the occasion to score the winning goal in the final against Stoke City, and carving a name for himself on the City book of legends.
FA Cup glory | Yaya scores the cup-winning goal against Stoke
It is testament to the kind of mature player that Yaya has become since moving to England, where he has scored eight goals in 51 matches. This amounts to a season and half, which is far beyond his four goals in 74 games during a three year stint at former club Barcelona, where he won two La Liga titles and the Uefa Champions League.
He has become an important member of Roberto Mancini’s squad, which currently sits atop the English Premier League.
However, Yaya’s biggest challenge yet will come in January when he leads his country to compete for Africa’s jewel at the Afcon in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
|"I am very happy to win the award. I feel proud of this special day. I thank my family; wife and kids for their support. I am also grateful to my brother, my team-mates and the Ivorian Football Federation for their role in this feat"
- Yaya Toure
The Elephants are currently blessed with one of the most gifted sides to have come out of the continent. This team includes Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Kolo Toure and Siaka Tiene. Since 2006, the Ivorians have been one of the most hyped squads at every Afcon tournament, but have failed to make it count by winning a second title.
With the absence of defending champions Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria, Yaya and his team-mates will have Ghana and Senegal as their main challengers for the title. They will need to prove that theirs has not been a fruitless group, so that history will remember them with a crowning title.
He will have the added burden of proving that a reigning African Player of the Year can lead his team to win the Afcon and be the first to do so since Rashidi Yekini, who won the continental trophy in 1994 after being crowned best player in 1993.
After a year that has seen their country torn apart by civil war, perhaps 2012 will be the year of Yaya Toure and the Elephants.