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Who were Africa’s disappointments of 2020?

2:42 PM WAT 28/12/2020
Saka, Ahmad, Pepe, Samatta
Goal Africa’s Ed Dove names and shames the continent’s underperformers of the last 12 months
  • Jean-Philippe Gbamin - Everton 2019-20

    Jean-Philippe Gbamin

    The Ivory Coast international’s disastrous time at Everton continued this year, with the versatile defender being ruled out for the entirety of the season due to injury.

    The most galling for Gbamin was that his absence was a result of several setbacks and not just the initial injury he suffered after his arrival at Goodison Park, following a litany of misfortunes.

    He was due to return in November, but as yet, he hasn’t made his comeback.

    “We hope that it can be a different year because the guy has had a lot of problems,” Carlo Ancelotti told journalists. “He has suffered a lot and we hope that 2021 will be fantastic for him.”

    Whenever Gbamin does return, it remains to be seen if he will still be the same player who Everton parted with £25 million to sign.

  • Nicolas Pepe Arsenal

    Nicolas Pepe

    Another 2019 summer signing who’s not delivered—albeit for very different reasons—lockdown came at just the wrong time for Pepe, as he’d just begun to deliver on his immense promise at Arsenal.

    His early struggles can be excused as a player adapting to life at a new club and a new league, even if he did arrive from LOSC Lille for a club-record £72 million, and there was a hope—particularly with the showing against Everton in the spring—that he was turning the corner.

    Despite a few flashes during the optimistic early months under Mikel Arteta, he appears to have regressed this term.

    Two goals, zero assists, and one foolish red card is not good enough from the wideman, of whom so much was expected.

  • Gernot Rohr - Nigeria

    The Super Eagles

    It’s rare indeed that Nigeria end the year without a victory at senior level, and while this has—of course—been a unique year, it’s still a poor return from the Super Eagles.

    They were thoroughly outclassed against Algeria, failed to breakdown Tunisia, and then were held in both legs of their Africa Cup of Nations double-header against Sierra Leone in the Autumn.

    The nadir, of course, was the collapse at home against the Leone Stars—as Nigeria threw away their four-goal lead to draw 4-4—and their failings have heaped major pressure on head coach Gernot Rohr.

  • Fenerbahce & Tanzania’s Mbwana Samatta

    Mbwana Samatta

    Signed by Aston Villa in January as the replacement for injured Wesley, Samatta scored on his Premier League debut—against Bournemouth—to fuel optimism that his natural qualities could make him a hit in the top flight.

    Things ultimately didn’t work out, and while the Villains stayed up on the last day—no thanks to Samatta’s miss against West Ham United—the striker fell behind rookie Keinan Davis in the pecking order and didn’t score another Prem goal.

    He duly moved to Fenerbahce, where once again, two goals on his full league debut—against Fatih Karagumruk—proved to be a false dawn.

    The attacker only scored three league goals in the entirety of 2020—all of which came on his debut.

  • Henry Onyekuru Galatasaray

    Henry Onyekuru

    Onyekuru’s career just isn’t going to plan, is it?

    During his time in Belgium, he netted goals aplenty with Eupen and then Anderlecht, proving himself as a versatile goal-getting wideman who was capable of changing the course of a match.

    A move to Everton didn’t work out, and despite netting 14 in the Super Lig during the 2018-19 season, he’s only scored once in the league—with both Galatasaray and AS Monaco—in the last 18 months.

    He’s been ostracised from the group at Monaco by Niko Kovac, who’s given him just four outings this term, and foreign reports suggest a return to Turkey or a switch to the Middle East could be on the cards in January.

  • Isaac Success - Watford

    Isaac Success

    Sticking with the Nigerian theme, Success’s miserable time in England continued during 2020, with the Super Eagles forward an anonymous figure as Watford were relegated from the Premier League.

    He last featured for the Hornets in a league game against Everton in February, and has spent the rest of the year on the shelf, partially because of a hamstring injury.

    Moving to Hertfordshire has proved to be a disastrous step for the attacker, who has also been involved in some controversial incidents while with the Hornets, and don’t be surprised if he departs English football for good in 2021.

  • Gianni Infantino and Ahmad Ahmad - Fifa and Caf

    Ahmad Ahmad

    The disgraced former Caf president has been suspended for five years and handed a fine after being found guilty of breaking Fifa’s code of ethics.

    It’s a miserable—if unpredictable—denouement for the Malagasy football administrator, whose tenure has been blighted by suggestions of embezzlement, corruption and nepotism.

    It’s a sad state of affairs considering the optimism that accompanied Ahmad’s arrival at the helm in 2017—as the replacement for Issa Hayatou—and African football surely deserves better in 2021.
  • Bukayo Saka England 2020

    Bukayo Saka

    Saka himself is not the disappointment here, nor are his performances, which have been one of the few positives for Arsenal during a difficult year.

    The ‘disappointment’—at least for African football—is that Saka opted to represent England, rather than throw his hat into the ring for Nigeria’s Super Eagles.

    He would have been a magnificent addition to this exciting young generation, where his versatility and technical prowess would have been key assets to the West African giants.

    Instead, he’s another one who has slipped the net, and Nigeria’s loss is set to be the Three Lions’ gain.