Johannesburg - Although they are mostly overlooked when it comes to international football awards, Africa’s players can at least gain some recognition by picking up one of the two major individual awards exclusively given to Africans.
One of them is the BBC Footballer of the Year Award, which will be announced on Monday. Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the favourite to make it a back-to-back win.
The Borussia Dortmund striker can look back on an extraordinary 2015/16 season.
Although he ended up without winning any trophies, his statistics for the season show that he is one of the world’s leading strikers at the moment.
He scored 25 goals in 28 Bundesliga matches and is the leading scorer after 13 games in this season.
His record in the Europa League was similarly impressive, as he bagged 12 goals in 12 matches.
Not surprisingly, he has been linked with a possible move away from Dortmund.
Indeed, Aubameyang himself has spoken of his affection for Real Madrid and has said that he would love to play for the Spanish giants at some stage.
The goal he scored in Dortmund’s 2-2 midweek draw at the Bernabeu Stadium in Spain would have impressed Real officials and would certainly not have done his chances of one day wearing the Real jersey any harm.
Meanwhile, Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel is not worried about Aubameyang’s flirtation with Real.
“That he’s so public about his wish to play for Real Madrid is just normal. Everyone has the dream to play for one of the best clubs in the world and Real are one of them.
“We can’t achieve our goals without Auba. He makes everyone better. He can make the difference at every second,” Tuchel said.
Aubameyang’s main rival for the award is Algerian hitman Riyad Mahrez, who could become African Footballer of the Year after an astonishing season with Leicester City, which saw the 1 500-1 outsiders take the Premier League title.
Mahrez was one of the outstanding players in a Leicester side that achieved most of their success based on a team effort.
The Algerian international managed to score 17 goals in 36 Premier League matches and he combined upfront with Jamie Vardy for the best striking duo that England saw last season.
But Aubameyang’s winning of the award last year was criticised by Yaya Touré, who was looking for a fifth consecutive win, but fell short against the Panther.
Touré said at the time that he was disappointed that he did not win the award after captaining Côte d’Ivoire to a win in the Africa Cup of Nations.
“I am very, very disappointed. It’s sad to see Africa react like this – not giving any importance to African [competitions].
“I think it brings shame on Africa. It is indecent. What can we do? We Africans, we do not show that Africa is important in our eyes. We prioritise external achievements over our own continent. It is lamentable.”
Touré is back as one of the five finalists this year, but it would be a huge surprise if he triumphs, especially as he has been used sparingly by new Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola.
Also back again as one of the finalists is Ghanaian André Ayew, who last year finished third in the voting, which is done by African football fans via the BBC.
Although he has moved from Swansea to West Ham, his club does not grab enough headlines to allow him enough exposure.
The final candidate, Sadio Mané, is in the same category as the Black Star.
Although he now plays for Liverpool, he spent last season on the books at Southampton, and even though he was the outstanding player as the Saints qualified for the Europa League, it is unlikely that his performances throughout the season were noticed enough in Africa.