The Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba did not win the 2007 African Footballer of the Year award because he refused to attend Friday's ceremony in Lome, his team said yesterday.
The Confederation of African Football had planned to give the award to the Chelsea forward but decided not to after he said he would not travel to the Togolese capital to collect it, according to the Ivory Coast team spokesman Jean-Claude Djacus.
Drogba, who scored the Ivory Coast's second goal in the 5-0 quarter-final thrashing of Guinea in the African Nations Cup on Sunday, told organisers that his wife would attend the ceremony on his behalf, but he was told she would not be welcome. The award went instead to the Mali striker Frédéric Kanouté.
"CAF has brought itself into disrepute," Djacus said. "They called Didier on the eve of the ceremony to tell him they would give the award to Kanouté if he did not come. Didier is now saying that he does not want to be part of the 2008 vote."
The Ivory Coast coach, Gerard Gili, hailed his players' composure after the win over Guinea. The Elephants struggled until Chelsea striker Drogba scored the second goal on 70 minutes. It was then all too easy for the Ivorians, who added three within 13 minutes through two from Chelsea's Salomon Kalou and one from Bakary Kone.
"It was very complicated until our second goal," Gili said. "Guinea was causing us trouble and until we doubled our lead, there was a chance they would equalise on the counter-attack."
Ivory Coast opened the scoring in the 25th minute with an Abdelkader Keita goal but then failed to convert their chances, with Aruna Dindane missing an open goal after dribbling past the Guinea 'keeper Kemoko Camara.
"Somehow, we managed to be patient and my players held their composure. They were very thorough and I want to congratulate them for that," said Gili. "The first half was hard," said the Arsenal centre-back Kolo Touré, who was on the bench. "When we were 2-0 up, it became quite easy but before that, I can tell you it was very complicated." Touré said he should be fit again for Thursday's semi-final in Kumasi.
In Sunday's other quarter-final, 10-man Ghana came from behind to beat their arch-rivals Nigeria 2-1. Ghana's win sent thousands of fans out on to the streets of Accra to celebrate, some carrying replica coffins covered in the green and white of Nigeria.
"It's a fantastic team effort, they are really 11 heroes," said the Ghana coach, Claude Le Roy, who criticised the second-half sending off of defender John Mensah for a professional foul on Peter Odemwingie.
"John did not make a single mistake in the game and I have seen players not sent off for professional fouls much worse than that," he said.
His counterpart at Nigeria, Berti Vogts, whose team managed only three goals and failed to reach the last four for the first time in five Nations Cup tournaments, said: "We made one or two mistakes and that is not allowed in international football. I'm very disappointed."
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