Unusual silence from Caf leaves observers wondering whether 2021 awards gala will ever be held

Sadio Mane Edouard Mendy Senegal 2022Getty Images

The Confederation of African Football has maintained an unusual silence regarding the annual Caf Awards last held in January 2020 to honour the continent’s outstanding players of 2019.

Liverpool and Senegal forward Sadio Mane and his Barcelona and Nigeria counterpart Asisat Oshoala were crowned Africa’s men and women’s Player of the Year, respectively, at the awards gala held at the Albatros Citadel Sahl Hasheesh Resort in Hurghada, Egypt.

In what was the 28th edition of the awards, Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi was named Coach of the Year after leading the Desert Foxes to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title while Paris Saint Germain right-back Achraf Hakimi received the Young Player of the Year gong.

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However, since then, the ceremony has not been held. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic which made gatherings impossible but Caf promised to hold the two subsequent events, having received assurances from their sponsors.

“Cancellation of the 2020 edition. Major partners for the event, Pickalbatros Group, has re-affirmed their contractual commitment towards the next two editions,” Caf said in a statement on their website, while announcing the cancellation of the 2020 event.

But two years later, nothing has been forthcoming with the African football governing body maintaining silence on the matter.

Two months ago, there were reports that Caf was determined to hold the awards before the end of March and that what was delaying it was the unavailability of a suitable venue, but that did not materialise.

Sources have, however, told GOAL that the awards might not happen for reasons still unknown while Caf president Patrice Mostepe, elected unopposed in March 2021, has also kept off the subject.

But while Caf is mute, it is important to note the importance of these awards. They do not just provide prestige and recognition to the winners but also motivate others to do better.

Before 1994, France Football magazine, organisers of the prestigious Ballon d’Or Awards, chose the best African footballer before Caf, until former president Issa Hayatou took over.

If Caf does not hold the 2021 awards, a number of players and teams will feel hard done by. Senegal, who won a maiden African Cup of Nations are favourites to scoop most of the 2021 awards with Mane seen as the main contender yet again, having been named the best player of the tournament.

Mane will definitely face competition from Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah, who made the Afcon final with Egypt before losing on post-match penalties, as well as Algerian international Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City.

Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy would be a shoo-in for the Golden Glove Award following his heroics at the Afcon and Chelsea, where he won the Uefa Champions League last year.

The 2021-22 league season is coming to an end this month and already, a number of African stars have placed themselves in contention for the 2022 award after stellar performances for their teams.

Even if the Fifa World Cup later in the year might tilt the scales, it would be unfortunate if the conversation shifts to 2022 when the top performers of 2021 have not been celebrated.