By Paul Bassey
The AIT Football Awards has come and gone. The memory is expected to linger till the next Award comes round.
As Chairman of the Award Panel, I did say as part of my vote of thanks that everything will be done to host the 2011 event at the end of this year. I have already read that it is going to be Lagos, while a call has come from Uyo showing interest. That, is for the Marketing Consultant to deal with.
Back to the past. The 2010 award meant a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, the highlight was the footballer of the year, that moment that Vincent Enyeama stepped out “from nowhere” to receive the award to the delight of a filled hall.
From nowhere, yes. I remember writing last week that Enyeama was billed to arrive Port Harcourt by 7:30pm and that we were considering using an helicopter to airlift him to the award venue given the traffic congestion in Port Harcourt.
Easier said. What about the non-existing helipad on the Presidential Hotel roof?
The story of the arrival of Enyeama is the story of the 2010 Awards. There is no gainsaying that the physical presence of nominees at Awards are considered sacrosanct, that is why we went all out to guarantee the presence of as many nominees as possible to boost the AIT Awards and what a task, given the engagement of the players with their clubs.
The story of Gyan started when I was in Sudan and the originator of the award Aisha Falode put a call through asking me to discuss with the Ghanaian FA Authorities and after that a European agent Tunde Adelekun who happened to have been in Sudan at that time.
Then came the club hurdle, appearance fees and the logistics of travel and so on. Needless to say after a lot of challenges, the deal was sealed.
Ditto Osaze Odemwingie and Uche Kalu. We did not just contact the winners but went all out to get all the nominees and the footballer of the year was a perfect example as tension heightened as to who the eventual winner will be. That not withstanding, the early arrival of Osaze and Kalu did not help matters.
The press reported extensively the arrival of the duo and Gyan of course. We saw them in the hall and twenty minutes to the end of the show there was no Enyeama. This forced some to doubt whether he was really in the scheme of things.
The organizers knew he was. They knew he had arrived and was snaking his way through traffic. They knew it will be wonderful to get him in the hall before the curtain was drawn on the awards, so they worked the phone, frantically.
Then the moment we had all been waiting for. Governor Amaechi climbed the podium to announce the nominees. He added the traditional “….And the winner is…..” shouts of ENYEAMA reverberated through out the hall and from nowhere the Nigerian goaltender appeared, live to the ecstacy of the surprised audience.
The rest is history.
Let me also mention the girls. Those women that made us proud in 2010. It was so nice seeing them out of their jerseys, some of them too dainty for the game of football, but as Blatter and the rest of us will keep on echoing, “ The future of the game is feminine”
For team of the year, Coach Eucharia Uche, came out with nearly all her girls and Governor Amaechi could not but remember a fifty thousand dollars Federal Government promise not kept “Make sure you see my sports commissioner before you leave Port Harcourt”, he ordered.
Ah! The dance. Yes the dance. How can I forget that dance that Sunderland colleague Zenden has not been able to master?
After Gyan had been awarded his plaque, someone in the crowd shouted “ the dance. Dance for us” it was a popular call. The Ghanaian World Cup star hesistated, then music ran out and he exploded on stage. Goal scored,Victory dance. A methaphor for the night, celebration galore.
Was Port Harcourt perfect? Far from it. We are inching towards that goal. What was perfect was the endorsement by the Nigeria Football Federation whose seven man delegation was led by the President himself.
What was perfect was the attendance of the Sports Minister and Chairman National Sports Commission Professor Taoheed Adedoja whose text message of congratulations to me at the end of the event was worth more than gold.
The attendance of the DG National Sports Commission, Dr. Patrick Ekeji, was perfect. So also was that of former sports minister Colonel Musa Mohammed and the presence in the hall of veritable football people.
I saw Chief Jonathan Ogufere, Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, Chief Solomon Ogba,Alhaji Sunny Badru, Mr. Linus Mba who incidentally was 70 on the day. Samson Siasia, Victor Ikpeba, Prince Oduah, Sunny Ojeagbase and his wife, Austin Eguavoen, Austin Akossa, Ike Shorunmu, Sam John, Honourable Lumumba Adeh, Dr. Kweku Tandoh…..I can go on and on.
To all those who contributed towards the success of the award, especially the media, the indefatigable Aisha Falode, Ehi Braimah and his Neo Media team, the Award Panel and The Rivers State Government, I say cheers.
Sunshine attacks Africa
This weekend a record four Nigerian clubs will start their journey of soccer supremacy in the continent.
I was in Ijebu Ode on Friday as Sunshine Stars launched an ambitious attack on Africa with a one day workshop on Challenges of playing in Africa.
With Linus Mba, Lawrence Katkem and Professor Tunde Asagba we took the players and officials through a concentrated seminar on what to expect when they step into the continent.
I commend the foresight of the Ondo State Football Agency boss Mike Idoko, because the club is now well positioned for their first clash against Tiko Lions of Cameroun. I also appreciate the presence of the Specia Assiatant to the Ondo State Governor on sports, Mr. Ishola Akinbobola, who promised to brief His Excellency on those observations so pointed out as necessary for success.
Kaduna United are also up in arms, against Foullah Edifice of Chad
In the CAF Champions League, experience is the name of the game as Kano Pillars and Enyimba take to the field.
Enyimba are away to Union S de Bitam of Gabon, while Pillars have an herculean confrontation away to Widad de Casablanca in Morrocco.
The target is the group stages. Good luck lads.
See you next week.