African football’s governing body has denied telling Didier Drogba to attend last week’s African Footballer of the Year award ceremony if he wanted to have a chance of winning.
Ivory Coast striker Drogba opted not to travel to Togo because he was preparing for his country’s Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final encounter against Guinea, while Mali’s Kanoute, who did go, was declared the winner on Friday.
Drogba said afterwards that a Confederation of African Football official had warned him that the award would be given to Sevilla striker Kanoute if he did not travel to Lome for the presentation ceremony.
However CAF chief communications director Suleiman Habuba has dismissed Drogba’s remarks.
“CAF have never called Didier Drogba or Frederic Kanoute to tell them that if they did not attend the ceremony they would not get the award,” he told Reuters.
“However, I met Frederic Kanoute because I wanted to tell him that it was very important that he came to the ceremony in Lome,” he added.
“I did that following the comment made by his coach (that he would not be allowed to go if Mali had qualified). Kanoute said that he had commitments with his club, but I assured him that everything would be done for a quick trip.”
Drogba, who won the award last year, told L’Equipe that he had received a call from a “prominent CAF official telling me that if I did not come to the ceremony, the rules would be changed and the award would be given to the second-placed player, meaning Kanoute.
“Without being disrespectful, I don’t think that the attitude of those people honours Africa. If I didn’t go to Lome, it was because it was two days before a quarter-final and we have only one goal, to win the Cup,” he said.
Kanoute told the Sevilla Web site that he too had been told he must attend to receive the award.
“It is a complicated story and I don’t have to justify myself,” said the Mali striker.
“He (Drogba) couldn’t attend the ceremony, someone rang him and said if he didn’t go he would be second and… everyone has accepted that version.
“But the truth is they told me the same and maybe if we had still been in the Cup I wouldn’t have been able to attend the event.
“They told me that I also deserved the award for everything I had achieved with Sevilla,” he added.
As a result of the controversy, Drogba said he did not want to be considered for next year’s award.
“I have therefore decided not to be part of the vote for the next African Footballer of the Year award. I feel that the contest has lost its worth. I regarded it very highly,” added the striker.