By George Aluo, who was in Accra
Colorful night! That was the setting at the Accra convention centre, where the Aiteo sponsored Confederation of African football (CAF) award took place Thursday January 4.
Though an African show, it was a night that had an English Premier League (EPL) touch, courtesy of the duo of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Both Salah and Mane ply their soccer trade in England for top premiership side, Liverpool, whose supporters pride themselves in not walking alone.
In Accra, true to the slogan of Liverpool fans, both Salah and Mane didn’t walk alone. Before the event proper, Salah and Mane stormed the award venue straight from the airport and jointly addressed a press conference. On arrival, they were greeted by a handful of Liverpool fans, who hailed them all the way.
At night, during the event proper, the Liverpool fans did not just storm the venue in their hundreds, but did so in the club colors, chanting the Liverpool song of never walking alone…”we are Liverpool and we never walk alone,” the fans sang to the admiration of everybody.
The fans hailed the duo of Salah and Mane, even as they bragged over the fact that the two best players in Africa lace boots for their club.
While the Liverpool fans cheered their stars, known supporters of other English premiership sides like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U could not but watch in envy.
A Nigerian sports journalist, Honor Sirawo, who is the president of Nigerian Sports Writers body, SWAN simply said, it was Liverpool’s night, irrespective of where the pendulum swings.
Before Salah was crowned, it was obvious the African footballer of the year title would go the way of either the Egyptian striker or Mane as the title-holder, Pierre Aubamayang was an “outsider” as far as the 2017 race was concerned.
Salah had during the pre event press conference said he was particularly delighted by the fact that the race was a straight one between him and his Liverpool teammate Mane, with whom he shares everything out there in Liverpool.
“I m happy it is a race between me and my friend Mane. We would be happy whoever wins the award. I share everything with Mane, we are good friends and it is nice for us to be in Accra together.”
Mane on his part shared a similar sentiment declaring that himself and Salah deserve to be in Accra.
“We are here on merit. I deserve to be here, just like Salah, but CAF will name the best for the award,” Mane said. It would be noted that Aubamayang was not part of the pre event press briefing, as he was still airborne to Accra when it took place.
Back to the event proper, it was a night that turned out to be a good advertisement for African football.
The guests were treated to the best of African music by the likes of Tiwa Savage, Flavour, Olamide and wizkid.
It was a night that had top dignitaries that included the president of Ghana, Nana Akufuador, former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, former Ghanaian president, JJ Rawlings, Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode.
For the first time in the history of the award, ex internationals and past winners of the award (African soccer legends) were accorded recognition. Emmanuel Amuneke, Victor Ikpeba, Mohammed Timoumi, Ladger Beloumi, Samuel Etoo and Didier Drogba were all in the house with Drogba interestingly serving as compere alongside South African diva, Carol Tshabalala.
Amuneke while giving the award and the organizers a pass mark stated: “What we saw today is good for African football. I am impressed with what the new leadership of CAF is doing, especially their decision to recognize ex-internationals who in their heyday did Africa proud.”
Samuel Etoo was also full of praise for CAF and the sponsors, Aiteo for organizing an event Africa can be proud of.
Ghanaian President, Akufuador had while declaring the event open assured CAF that his country and government would continue to support the round leather game. He said Ghana would continue to host CAF events and tournaments.
President of Aiteo group, the new sponsor of the event, Benedict Peters said his outfit opted to sponsor the award as a way of motivating youths of the continent and take African football to the next level.
It is recalled that AITEO Group, Nigeria’s leading energy solution company and official partner of the Nigeria Football Federation signed a contract with the Confederation of African Football in Lagos in October 2017 and bankrolled the event for the first time in Accra.
•Player of the Year: Mohamed Salah
•Woman Player of the Year: Asisat Oshoala
•Youth Player of the Year: Patson Daka
•Coach of the Year: Hector Cuper
National Team of the Year: Egypt
•Women’s National Team of the Year: South Africa
•Club of the Year: Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco)
•African Legend Award: Ibrahim Sunday (Ghana)
•Football Leader of the Year: Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania)
•Special Recognition Award: George Oppong Weah (Liberia)
•Platinum Award: President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo (Ghana)