By Kemi Adetutu
The 2017 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards gala may have ended with all the awards in good hands, but the memories Aiteo Group and CAF created linger in the minds of those who graced the beautiful occasion held at Accra International Conference centre, Ghana, and those who keenly followed from all over the world.
Aiteo Group, Africa’s leading energy conglomerate and official optimum partner of Nigerian Football Federation, sponsored the event for the first time, and people are extremely impressed by the show of class and the level of success achieved, even though Aiteo came in about three months to the event.
The buzz the awards ceremony generated was overwhelming online and offline. Ghana’s quiet capital city, Accra, was enlivened by the presence of guests from across the world. Aiteo did not just take over as sponsors, it revitalised the annual ceremony held in honour of African football and made it what it is truly supposed to be- a spectacle.
It was a gathering of not just footballers but of top entertainers, political elites and business leaders. Their presence in itself spoke volume of the growing import of collaboration in promoting the game of football in Africa. Glowing tribute was paid to ex-footballer, George Weah, who was recently elected as president in Liberia.
What was different about the awards this year, was first, the massive turnout of legends and champions from all over the world. It was the first time in the history of the event that all previous winners were invited. Legends like Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Morocco’s Mohamed Timoumi, Algeria’s Lakhdar Belloumi, Nigeria’s Victor Ikpeba and Emmanuel Amuneke, Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf, among others, were there to celebrate the current flagbearers- Sadio Mane, Mohammed Sallah, Emerick Aubameyang and Asisat Oshoala. The 1971 winner of African Footballer of the Year, Ghana’s Ibrahim Sunday, was also duly recognised for his outstanding achievement on the field and subsequently as coach.
Also, for the first time ever, football fans and the general public were involved in the selection process for the African Player of the Year and Africa’s Finest XI.
Aiteo and CAF also ensured that all nominees, especially for the category of Women’s Footballer of the Year were invited unlike in previous years. According to Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala, who went home with the award, her third in a row, this decision by CAF and its sponsor, Aiteo, was proof that African football was opening up more to the women in terms of recognition.
The show was compered by Ivorian legend and two-time award winner, Didier Drogba, alongside South African broadcaster, Carol Tshabalala. Together, they pulled off a beautiful performance. Boris Kodjoe and wife also ushered in performances from top African musicians at intervals.
Speaking passionately during the awards ceremony, Benedict Peters, Chairman of Aiteo Group stated that “young Africans are already shaping our future with their creativity and ingenuity across a variety of fields. Our generation must continue to provide platforms to recognise and celebrate their success, and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”
The event has been described as the best ever organised by CAF in recent times by those who have attended previous editions. It was perfectly put together and the theme ‘Uniting Africa through Football’ resonated through the conference hall.
One of the football stakeholders in attendance commented, “Aiteo deserves an award as well, and we will call it ‘Best Corporate Player in African Football’. Thumbs up to better and bigger editions, we hope they continue to promote football in Africa and possibly showcase female football legends in coming years.”
Kemi Adetutu, Sports and political analyst, from Lagos, Nigeria.