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Editorials, Sports

CAF Awards 2023: Will Victor Osimhen suffer same fate as Jay-Jay Okocha ?

Osimhen is almost certain to win his first league title of his career with Napoli likely to win their first Scudetto in more than 30 years.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 31st March 2023
Victor Osimhen

Jay-Jay Okocha will be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever kick a football in Africa, while his immense skill will take a long time to fade in the memory of football lovers. His dribbling styles and technique made him the toast of fans, and his supreme confidence on the ball endeared him to many across the world.


Okocha was part of the Nigerian team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 94, and also showcased his skill at the World Cup later that year, especially against Italy. He played a key role as Nigeria won Africa’s first Olympic gold at Atlanta 96, and, in a CAF vote in 2007, was voted as the 12th best African player of the last 50 years.


In 2004, he made Pele’s list of 125 living legends of the sort, one of only four African players—alongside Abedi Pele, George Weah and Roger Milla—to make the cut. While the other three won Caf’s African Footballer of the Year award during their careers, Okocha never clinched the continent’s finest individual prize.


Fans disagreed with Caf and voted him BBC African Footballer of The Year in 2003 and 2004.


He became first player to win the award twice, and is among the few African winners of the Premier League Player of The Month Award, having clinched the award in November 2003.


He was also Bolton Wanderers Player of The Season in the 2003-04 season, one of several years in which he appeared to have a shot at the CAF prize.


The 49-year-old displayed his football magic at the 2004 Nations Cup, winning both Best Player and Golden Boot awards, yet was overlooked for the APOTY award again. Despite his outrageous skill, Okocha was never crowned African Player of the Year. He arguably should have won it in 1998, but he lost out to Morocco’s Mustapha Hadji by 74 points to 76.


Many expected him to step into the shoes of Victor Ikpeba, as he was Africa’s best performer at France 98, where his sublime skill dazzled many and he was the only African named in the Fifa All-Stars XI.


L-R: Austin Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria) and Mustapha Hadji (Morocco)


Hadji may have scored a stunning goal at the tournament, but he was not honored in the Fifa select. The Moroccan may have impressed at the ’98 Afcon—where Okocha was absent—but after starring for Fenerbahce and earning a big-move move to PSG that summer, the playmaker would have been a fine bed for the APOTY gong.


Football fans and analysts who acknowledge his great abilities and contributions to the game continue to hold the popular opinion that he ought to have won at least one CAF POTY Award during his career. Okocha is still regarded as one of the most adored and respected footballers in Africa and across the globe despite not receiving the gong as he should have.


Fast forward to year 2023, Victor Osimhen is looking forward to ending Nigeria’s long wait for another CAF Player of the Year winner and the stars appear to be aligning in favor of the Super Eagles forward following his performances for the Neapolitans in Italy and Europe.


Victor Osimhen is the favorite to finish as the top scorer in the Italian Serie A with 21 goals already. He will become the first African player to reach that height if he succeeds. Given that some of the best African players in history, such as George Weah and Samuel Eto’o, had previously excelled in the Italian top division, that would be an amazing accomplishment.


Osimhen is almost certain to win his first league title of his career with Napoli likely to win their first Scudetto in more than 30 years. Many people won’t be surprised to see the 24-year-old striker voted the best player in Italy at the end of the season because he was the main protagonist of that predetermined success.

Away from Italy, Osimhen showed his class on the continent, scoring four goals in five UEFA Champions League appearances this season.


In a conversation with BOUNCE, former Flying Eagles of Nigeria coach, Paul Aigbogun  opined that there is no African player close to Osimhen at the moment.


Paul Aigbogun is a Nigerian football manager. Photo Credit: Sportfotosmedia


“Osimhen for sure, for me Osimhen at the moment is on fire but unfortunately he did not get the goals for us against Guinea. Most of these things include club football as well, and I don’t think there’s anybody close to him at the moment”.


It is difficult to identify another African player who dominates the highest club competition on the continent and any of the top five European divisions like Osimhen. And it is Osimhen’s dominance that is igniting speculation that he may become the first Nigerian since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999 to win the CAF African Player of the Year Award.


The only blemish on Osimhen’s record is his lack of participation in the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Morocco may have one or two of its brightest talents in the running for the continent’s top player award after becoming the first African country to get to the World Cup semifinals in Qatar.


Goalkeeper Yassine Bono, midfielders Sofyan Amrabat and Azzedine Ounahi, and defender Achraf Hakimi were some of the key players on that Moroccan team.


Yet, right-back Achraf Hakimi might be the only candidate for the top award due to his PSG successes in France.


Osimhen should be the favorite to receive the award ahead of anyone else, as would make sense, but a repeat of the event of 1998 may strike again.


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