*Veterans Solaja, Praiz, Aiyejina involved in contests for media gongs
By; AYO OJEDOKUN, Lagos
Reigning King of the Pitch and Queen of the Pitch, Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala respectively are in with excellent chances of retaining their awards at the 9th Nigeria Pitch Awards Ceremony which holds at the Great Margaret Hall of the John Woods Hotel, Abuja on Friday evening.
Osimhen, with 23 goals in 28 matches for Italian Serie A side Napoli this season, is currently one of the world’s leading marksmen. His four goals have helped the Italian club reach the quarter finals of Europe’s top club competition, UEFA Champions League, for the very first time. At international level, his four goals against Sao Tome and Principe in a 2023 AFCON qualifier in Agadir, Morocco nine months ago helped Nigeria to a record international win of 10-0.
The gangling young forward has recently won the Best Foreign Athlete and Player of the Month awards in Italy. He battles Ademola Lookman, Alex Iwobi and Paul Onuachu.
Oshoala, who features for FC Barcelona Femenin in Spain’s top division, scooped the Pichichi Award as the league’s joint-highest goalscorer with 20 goals, which helped her club win the league title. Her club also won the Spanish Super Cup. She is in a contest with Super Falcons’ team-mates Rasheedat Ajibade and Gift Monday.
There are 18 categories in all where winners will emerge on Friday night: King of the Pitch; Queen of the Pitch; Striker of the Year; Goalkeeper of the Year; Defender of the Year; Midfielder of the Year; Team of the Year; Coach of the Year; Sam Okwaraji Award; State With The Best Grassroots Football Development Programme; Football Pitch of the Year; Football-Friendly Governor of the Year; Corporate Sponsor of the Year; Sportsmanship Award; Football Journalist of the Year-Print; Football Journalist of the Year-TV; Football Journalist of the Year-Radio and; Football Journalist of the Year-Online.
The four media categories hold interesting prospects, with Mr. Kunle Solaja, honoured by football’s world-governing body at last year’s World Cup finals in Qatar for having covered 10 FIFA World Cup finals, in the race for Football Journalist of the Year-Online. Tobi Adepoju and Shina Oludare are the other contestants.
In Football Journalist of the Year-TV, SuperSport ace Mozez Praiz is in the race with TVC’s Promise Efoghe and Channels’ Cecilia Omorogbe. In Football Journalist of the Year-Print, The PUNCH’s Sports Editor Tana Aiyejina is in the contest with Charles Diya and Johnny Edward, while Emmanuel Etim tops the shortlist for Football Journalist of the Year-Radio, which also has Yinka Oyedele and Tony Bekederemo.
Three eminent personalities, viz Edo State Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, billionaire investor Kunle Soname and former NFF 1st Vice President Seyi Akinwunmi are shortlisted for Sportsmanship Award, as are MTN, Bet9ja, Coca-Cola and AITEO for Corporate Sponsor of Football.
Rivers State Governor, His Excellency Nyesom Wike, CON and Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Godwin Obaseki of Lagos and Edo States respectively contend for Football-Friendly Governor while Edo, Lagos and Delta jostle for State With The Best Grassroots Development Programme. Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Remo Stars Stadium and Godswill Akpabio Stadium are in the race for Football Pitch of the Year.
The Flamingos, bronze medallists at the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in India, battle Rivers United and Remo Stars for Team of the Year, and Rivers United’s Stanley Eguma tops the list for Coach of the Year, which also has Gbenga Ogunbote and Bankole Olowookere.