By Caleb Kola Okello
Published May 28, 2015
That Nigeria’s Asisat Lamina Oshoala who plays for Liverpool Women FC, an English Women’s Super League side was crowned BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2015 shocked rather than excited many as she was the least expected to win. Being an African, she was expected to have received the bulk of her votes the mother continent. But Africa has the reputation of not voting in droves, let alone the fact that women’s football is not something celebrated here. The 20-year-old Oshoala did not deserve the title unless, of course, she had been up against her equally budding (read inexperienced youngsters) players.
As soon as BBC announced Asisat Oshoala as having won its inaugural award, pundits pointed out that the British multimedia broadcaster considered something else other than football wizardry. Just how did the green horn beat 27-year-old German Nadine Kessler (2014 FIFA World Player of the Year;)29-year-old Brazilian Marta Vieira da Silva (five-time FIFA World Player of the Year); and equally decorated 28-year-old Spanish Veronica Boquete and 25-year-old Scott Kim Little to the new award for female footballers?
Is Asisat Oshoala the best that the so-called football experts, administrators, journalists, coaches and former players who nominated her for the BBC award could get?
Favouring raw talent over experienced players like da Silva is, to say the least, an insult. Just because Oshoala won several awards among her peers in the under-20 World Cup side does not mean she should win the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year Award without having proved herself on the pitch of senior female footballers. In 2009, Ghanaian Dominic Adiyiah won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe in the Under-20 tournament but, like a flash in the pan, the win ended there; Adiyiah currently plays in the low-keyed Thai premier league. Pamela Jelimo, the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the 800 meters race, went ahead to win the jackpot of US$1 Million before she fell off the face of the earth.
So what does the case of Ghanaian Adiyiah or Kenyan Jelimo have to do with Oshoala and her BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year Award?
Asisat Oshoala shall be under enormous pressure to outsmart and out-kick her competitors da Silva, Kessler and Boquete. Here, success shall be determined by performance on the pitch, not amorphous, ambiguous and opaque votes.
I feel the BBC’s award was deliberately given Asisat Oshoalanot on merit and definitely not on the number of votes accumulated but on age and race. Hey, how come 28-year-old Nigerian EniolaAluko who plays for Chelsea Women Football Club wasn’t nominated for the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year Award. Sorry, she, like da Silva, Boquete, Little and Kessler, is too old!
The crowning of Asisat Oshoala as the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2015 has not been celebrated as it should have been. In fact, the credibility of this BBC award has taken a hit and it will take much energy and resources to salvage it.