It was almost about 30 minutes (8PM) later than the time the first ever NFF awards was supposed to commence as guest shoved their home training to the side as they devoured refreshments not minding time because lateness is the standard in Nigeria.
The build up to the award was as loud as a cementary both on social media and off it. Publicity and marketing are still infants in Nigerian sports, either due to ignorance or negligence or both. What makes an award show, an award show is what happens before the award; the detailed planning, arrangement and logistics. This, clearly, the NFF were lacking but they can easily hide in the “this is our first time blanket” and they did.
But as you made your way through the red carpet, all of NFF’s pre award deficiencies were easily swept under the carpet, with brilliant images of Nigeria’s football heroes from Daniel Amokachi and the golden 1994 era, to the dominant Perpetua Nkwocha’s Super Falcons and Christian Chukwu majestic 1980s. This simply told Nigeria’s football stories in a way that felt close to the heart. For once, you were proud; proud to either be part of Nigeria’s football, past or present.
It was also classic Amaju Pinnick; a man who not only understands the importance of branding but also very skilled in always look good in public eyes. With pride hung on his shoulders, the NFF president walked in with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CAF president Ahmad Ahmad, telling them stories behind the wall of Nigerian football, needlessly though, the wall of pictures perfectly told it’s own stories and Infantino understood it more than anyone.
Gianni Infantino was just few steps from entering a hall filled with Nigeria’s football immortals. Very rare, if ever, has a room contained such a colossal number of legends, I’m talking about Chairman Christian Chukwu, the Mathematical Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amaesimaka, Austin Eguavoen, Jay Jay Okocha, Annie Chiejine (running out of breathe). Journalists who have dedicated their lives to Nigerian sport especially football, John Momoh, CEO Channels TV, Larry Izamoje, CEO Brila FM, Michel Obi, Master Sport, administrators and politicians who have invested heavily in football.
The award kicked off with a brilliant dance rendition, followed by Darey class performance of hit song “Pray for me”.
Then Amaju Pinnick delivered the most political speech you would hear since Barack Obama, cementing his position in football’s administrative hierarchy with words, if results wasn’t already enough. Say what you may, but there is no denying the fact that Amaju Pinnick is a good salesman and he knows how to pitch his words to investors and sponsors, that it always triggers their pocket. The irony however is, regardless of how good a salesman Amaju Pinnick is, investor are at his doorstep because of the result on the pitch. The man who ensured Amaju Pinnick wouldn’t be writing “Sponsors” in his prayer request, Gernot Rohr, was barely mentioned and was almost insignificant in the entirety of the award.
Technical issues in awards in Nigeria, is like rain and water, and there were many embarrassing moments, where foreign delegates much have thought they were sent back in time to when the world was without internet. Despite those difficulties, the musical acts more than covered up for it, except for Kiss Daniel was entertaining the chairs guest were leaving behind. There was a lovely touch to how different music acts performed and another followed.
The award ultimately felt like the celebration of the past rather than the present, but there can be no complains about that.These football heroes deserve every bit of celebration they get.
The NFF Awards was far from perfect but there is something in here- the award adds glamour to Nigerian football that so often looks crude.
List of winners:
Men’s Player of The Year: Victor Moses
Women’s Player of the Year: Asisat Oshoala
Men’s coach of the Year: Kennedy Boboye (Plateau United)
Women’s coach of the Year: Anne Chiejine
Goal of the Year: Sikiru Olatunbosun (MFM FC)
Fairplay Award: Remo Stars
Fans of the Year: El Kanemi Warriors
Platinum Award: Gianni Infantino
Development Award: John Momoh (Channels TV)
Written by Joseph Bassey, follow on Twitter @akajoebass