By Amos Dafenone
The year 2018 will be starting on a high note as the best of African football home and abroad gather in Accra, Ghana for the first ever Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards to be sponsored by Nigerian energy giant Aiteo Group.
African footballers have achieved a lot in local and foreign leagues in the past year, and it is only logical that they should be honoured on their continent. The Aiteo-CAF Award will have some defining moments- the coronation of the 2017 King and Queen of African football.
At a recent ceremony attended by CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad; Aiteo Group’s Senior Vice President, Commercial and Gas, Victor Okoronkwo; CAF First Vice President Kwesi Nyantakyi; CAF Executive Committee member, Amaju Pinnick, and Ghana’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Isaac Asiamah, the shortlist of the final three contending in the seven different categories for 2018 Aiteo-CAF awards was unveiled.
For African Player of the Year, the men in the running for the most coveted honour include Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian professional footballer who plays as a forward or winger for Liverpool and the Egyptian national team; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a French-born Gabonese professional footballer who plays for German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund and the Gabon national team and Sadio Mane, a Senegalese who plays as a winger for Premier League club, Liverpool and the Senegal national team.
In the Women’s Player of the Year award category, Nigerian-born Asisat Oshoala, who plays for Chinese side Dalian Quanjian F.C. in the Chinese Women’s Super League as a forward, was selected alongside, South Africa’s Chrestina Kgatlana (UWC Ladies) and Cameroon’s Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene who plays for Russian club, CSKA Moscow.
Youth Player of the Year nominees include Krepin Diatta (Senegal & Sarpsborg), Patson Daka (Zambia & Liefering) and Salam Giddou (Mali & Guidars).
Nigerian Super Eagle’s coach, Gernot Rohr made the list of Coach of the Year award nominees, which he clearly deserves, for securing the 2018 Russia World Cup ticket for the Nigerian national team. Rohr is picked alongside the current manager of Egypt’s national team, Hector Cuper and L’Hussein Amoutta, a Moroccan former footballer and current coach of Wydad Casablanca Club in Morocco.
Club of the Year award nominees include Egypt’s Al Ahly, Congolese football club, TP Mazembe and Wydad Athletic Club, based in Cassablanca, Morocco.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Super Eagles of Nigeria are up for a keen contest for the National Team of the Year award.
Women’s National Team of the Year award category include Ghana’s U-20 team, Nigeria’s U-20 and South Africa’s.
2018’s edition will be the 26th CAF award since inception. Football on the continent continues to grow, especially with interventions from companies like Aiteo Group.
Aiteo Group, which is also Official Optimum Partner of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the sponsor of the country’s Federation Cup, which has now been renamed, “The Aiteo Cup” took the business of sports promotion up a notch by partnering with CAF.
Football is popular game in Africa and time and time again it has proven to be a very good vehicle for integration. In an article on Huffington Post, the Executive Vice Chairman of Aiteo, Benedict Peters speaking on why he thinks football can play a huge role in uniting Africa said nothing galvanises different people, regardless of race, religion or language, more than football.
“If any of our children were to meet — one from Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Angola — toss them a football and you can guarantee that friendships, common ground, laughter and handshakes would emerge quickly. And if football is something that can unify our young people, why should we not also use it to unify across the differences of our continent?” He added.
Aiteo Group’s engagement with NFF is a five-year deal worth over N2.5billion and it has been described as one of the most important interventions in the resuscitation of sports in the country.
Aiteo is raising the standard of the game, and no doubt, the Aiteo-CAF award gala which is scheduled to hold on January 4, 2018 in Accra, Ghana, will be another platform to showcase that football matters to Africa and Africans, and talents deserve to be rewarded for making the continent proud.
Dafenone writes from Warri, Nigeria