ABUJA: In a drama-filled 2015, the Elephants of the Ivory Coast without the inspirational Didier Drogba finally delivered on a long-term promise to win a second Africa Cup of Nations title with TP Mazembe from DR Congo crowned African club champions for a fifth time.
Since reaching the 2006 final against hosts Egypt, the Ivorians led by skipper Drogba have promised so much at the continent’s showpiece football event only to fall short of repeating their first and only triumph in 1992.
It was then left to reigning African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure to get the Elephants past Ghana’s Black Stars on penalties in the championship game in February in Bata, Equatorial Guinea.
Frenchman Herve Renard, who inspired Zambia to outscore the Ivorians in the 2012 finals in Libreville, Gabon, was the man at the helm when the Elephants triumphed.
Manchester City midfielder Toure, 32, is in strong contention to be named Africa’s best player for a fourth straight year as he is on a three-man shortlist that also includes Andre Ayew of Ghana and Swansea City and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who features for Gabon and Borussia Dortmund.
The 2015 CAF Player of the Year will be announced at a ceremony in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja on January 7.
The 2015 Nations Cup itself will long be remembered for the ugly scenes involving last-minute hosts Equatorial Guinea in knockout matches against Tunisia and Ghana with the semi-final against the Black Stars disrupted by a riot, which left many fans injured and sparked off wide-spread criticisms around the world.
CAF president Issa Hayatou took exception to some of the reactions, accusing the western media of perpetuating colonisation.
“When something bad happens in Europe, they say it’s an error. When something happens in Africa, they begin talking about corruption,” blasted an enraged Hayatou.
“What happened in that [abandoned 2012]match between Serbia and Italy? It’s the same as what happened here, but when it’s Africa it’s different. It’s irrelevant that it’s a semi-final. It’s a football match. The western media are simply here to perpetuate colonization.”
Hayatou himself also made history after he was appointed acting FIFA president after Sepp Blatter was suspended on account of the corruption probe in the world football governing body.
The 69-year-old Hayatou has been CAF president since 1988 and he will step down as FIFA helmsman when the presidential election is staged in February with South African mining magnate Tokyo Sexwale one of the candidates.
Africa will hope for better representation at next year’s Rio Olympics after 1996 Atlanta gold medalists Nigeria led Algeria and South Africa to book automatic qualification at the U23 Nations Cup in Senegal.